“If you’re going to do something, then do it right.”
Those words, spoken by my father, came to me the winter of my thirteenth year as I delivered newspapers along my route on the streets of Elmwood Park, a suburb of Chicago. It was the winter of 1976 and we were in the clutch of a terrific, trademark Chicago blizzard. The streets were buried in three-foot drifts and my fingers ached with a bone-freezing chill through two pairs of wool gloves as I tossed rolled newspapers from the passenger window of our beat-up Chevy station wagon while my dad navigated the icy terrain. He usually didn’t chauffer me; I rode the six-mile route on my bike with papers nestled neatly into a burlap sack woven across the handlebars. But, today he’d decided the snow was a little more than my bubblegum-pink bike could handle, hence the unsolicited lesson in proper newspaper delivery. I really didn’t care what his thoughts were at the time; all I wanted was to get home to the warmth of our living room. Yet, with each paper that missed its mark Dad made me exit the car, retrieve the paper, and walk it up to the customer’s cleared front porch.
I was a bit—okay, more than a bit—miffed at him that day, as it took several hours to finish the route and I was sure I’d permanently lost the use of a couple of fingers and toes in the process. But, as the following days passed, Dad’s words stayed with me. If you’re going to do something, then do it right. Little did I understand at the time that they would become a cornerstone of my work ethic over the decades to come, guiding me from a naive teenager to an award-winning teacher and principal, as well as a published author.
With Dad’s encouragement, in the months and years to come I wrote and read everything I could devour, and then wrote and wrote and read some more. I was blessed to also have wonderful teachers along the way, who took the time to lift me up, to ask about my writing, to talk with me as if both my dreams and I truly mattered.
Over the years, writing has become a part of me so huge that I cannot imagine life without it. Removing writing from my life would be like attempting to live without breathing—impossible. I have continued to write through moves from Chicago to the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, through college, marriage, career changes, and the deaths of both my parents.
I have never, ever stopped writing, and I try my best to pay that encouragement forward. Recently, two former students approached me and, with smiles plastered on their radiant faces said, “When we get published, we’re going to dedicate our book to you.” One of those words, above all the others, made my heart sing—they said when, not if. Sweet music to my ears, as I have managed to pass along the confidence that was instilled in me by several sweet souls who cared along the way.
Sometimes the best life lesson comes in the form of advice from your dad while delivering newspapers on the icy streets of Chicago during a blizzard—if you’re going to do something, then do it right.
Let me be the first to wish you Happy Holidays with an e-copy of Christmas in Miracle Cove. Just reply to this post by November 25 to be entered. Winner will be randomly selected December 1st. Good luck!