Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Peace Like a River

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You know you're reading a good book when you grab a pencil to start underlining. This one is stunning. I am deeply moved by the word choice and the deliberate craft Leif Enger poured into Peace Like a River. I'm just 50 pages in and I'm enamored.

Enger has a gift. He handles word choice and the manipulation of sentences as if they are baby chicks cradled in his hands, as if by one faulty move they could fall and be rendered immobile, dead even. In Peace Like a River, he cared for each word and sentence he structured, this is obvious and quite frankly, it's inspirational. It drives me. It motivates me and it sends me to the computer chair in a hurry to let my own fingers bounce upon the keyboard, releasing my thoughts and imagination in my own attempt at the craft.

What kinds of things do I find myself underlining as I read a fiction book like this? My pencil scratches under words or sentences strewn together that light me up, that literally tick something in my brain alerting me that I've just read something entirely original and pure in form. If after I read something like this I can see it, visualize it as if the characters or scene were before me, raw and real, I know I've come across a gifted writer--a delicious reward for reading.

I'll provide you with a some examples from Peace Like A River:

"Once torched by truth, Swede wrote years later, a little thing like faith is easy."

"It only felt powerful, like truth unhusked."

"Imagine the voice of a much picked-on yet somehow hopeful child."

"I remember it as October days are always remembered, cloudless, maple-flavored, the air gold and so clean it quivers."

Reading is a delight for me. I remember my mom used to stay up late into the night so she could reclaim her time to read. I find I neglect cleaning so I can do it. It's just that important to me. Before you start having scary visions of my trash toppling with coffee grinds and banana peels, I'll have you know I'm actually a decent housekeeper. I somehow just fit it all in and am willing to let the floor be free of the vacuum for a couple of days if it means I can chew on one more chapter of a riveting book.

Happy Reading Moments to You!

Monday, March 30, 2009

How Committed Are You?

In your marriage, that never ending bathroom project or that role you decided to volunteer in...how committed are you? And what affects our level of commitment?

In our marriage, my husband and I joke with each other, saying we're stuck with one another. That may not seem all that romantic, but we get it and we mean it as a term of endearment. It certainly helps us feel secure that neither of us is going to bail out when the going gets tough, and the going does get tough sometimes. It's also our playful way of reminding each other we made this decision for life...there is no Plan B for us.

I can write that with confidence because, though the going has gotten tough, we've not encountered any make it or break it moments or fall-outs that have led us to seriously discuss Plan B.

So who are those people that remain committed even after one of those make it or break it fall-outs? What makes them stay?

Who are those that hardly ever have a project to do around the house because once they set their minds to it, the project is taken on full force and completed faster than a new American Idol takes center stage?

Who is it that has remained in a miserable job for over twenty years because they want to remain loyal and keep providing for family?

What is it about us that makes us stay committed to something? I remember Dr. Phil used to say something a decade ago about "pay off." What are we getting in return for our commitment?

It makes me also wonder if perhaps some people are just wired with more of a commitment threshold. Are some people just bent towards sticking it out, digging in with their heals and making the best of it?

Finally, this leads me to ask...when do we know the time has come to break a commitment? How can we tell our "time is up" with a project or even sadly, after a marriage has undergone a repeated adulterous affair?

I think for me I'm willing to remain committed if, through prayer, God has not made it absolutely clear I'm to sign off, I'm to quit.

Otherwise, I'm a fan of follow-through, a fan of loyalty even when it hurts or is uncomfortable.

Who said this life was about comfort anyway?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tales of the Fourth Grade Everything

I was at the top of my game in fourth grade. I mean this quite literally if we're talking Four Square. I was good...very good. I have so many fond memories of fourth grade.

Some of my favorites are when my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Lesh used to sing, "Everyone knows it's Windy...and Windy's got stormy eyes..." It made me feel called out and special. I also loved how my mom used to braid my hair in two French braids down the sides of my head. I was a scrawny, long-legged girl but those legs came in handy during travel soccer games when I'd get to the other end of the field in a hurry.

What else about fourth grade sticks out to me? Well, I can't really write something up about my fourth grade experience and neglect to tell you, I WAS THE PRESIDENT OF MY FOURTH GRADE CLASS. Now that is a sure-fire indicator of future success if I say so. Or maybe not...but it certainly felt important at the time. I even had to campaign for it. AND I WON.

I remember really taking to reading around this time as well. At this point I'd already read through all the Ramona Quimby books, devoured Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and digested the fried worms from How to Eat Fried Worms. I came across Madeleine L'Engle's, A Wrinkle in Time in fourth grade and I was absolutely transformed by it. I fell in love with reading.

Finally, in fourth grade we took on one of the most interactive and inspirational projects I can ever remember being involved in during all my schooling. We went on the Pioneer Trail. I was hooked. Every decision to be made, how many pans to bring, what to do with the ill family member, what trail to take, fascinated me to no end. I credit this game for the reason I love to learn.

So, instead of feeling much like a fourth grade nothing...I felt like a fourth grade everything. At the very least, I was something. What can I say...it was my year.

What was your year?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Help Me to Help You



How very Jerry McGuire Pam's exit was on The Office last night. Now what? Is it a show without Steve Carell? Steve C. might not beat Tom C. in the looks department but he sure has him beat in the humor department (that's unless you count that couch-jumping incident which I still find quite funny).

My favorite part was Michael Scott's commando crawl around the office trying to convince his employees to go with him. It reminded me all too well of moments around our house when I have to do anything within my means to get the kids out the door. Think I'll try that inchworm move next time. At the very least maybe it will grab their attention.

As a stay-at-home mom, I need the comedic relief The Office provides. I remember my own office days but am reminded every time I watch the show, how blessed I am to be able to stay at home with my girls, whether they actually follow me out the door or not (I just hope they are listening, that it's all registering...that's my hope).

What show makes you laugh?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poker Face

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Do you have a poker face? Not me. Lady Gaga (what I used to call my grandma by the way) has a funky song out with this same title. I'll just put it out there that I don't have one, never have had one and probably never will have a poker face.

I joke with my friends that I need a filter for my mouth, merely because I'm still learning what is valuable enough to be spoken. I'm not one of those people who just blurts out anything, unintentionally hurting feelings or being crass in some way. Rather, I just don't think anyone wonders very often if I'm being false or not, if I'm holding something back or hiding something.

What you see is mostly what you get. I lay my cards down and laugh as I do it. It's just not a game for me (to fool others or hide). I can't bluff to save my life. I find that at this stage of life, I'm trying to make peace with myself about this trait of mine. I'm learning not be so boundary-less as I decide who to trust in my vulnerability, yet I also lean into this truth-telling and honesty as I see a need for it.

Are you a good game player? Do you have a good hand or is it all a bluff?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easy Being Mean

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Why is it so easy to be mean? It's far easier for me to wake up on the wrong side of the bed than the right side. Why is this?

My friend recently told me a story about her trip to Disney World. She took hundreds of pictures and made wonderful memories. One memory sticks out clearly in her mind. She explained how she waltzed up to the Wicked Queen from Snow White asking her to take a picture with her and the Queen flipped her cape up and refused, indicating quite clearly she was not interested in getting her picture taken.

You might be thinking, "How rude?" That wasn't my first reaction to my friend's story.

I said, "How fun!" There was something in me that initially thought it would be exciting to go around all day being rude and mean to others on a whim. Ah, to have control and power to be mean for the sake of meanness.

You can stop worrying about me. I didn't stay in that thought long. If you know me, you probably guessed that already and were surprised by my admitting my desire to be cruel. I'm confident it wouldn't be the heartless treatment of others I'd potentially enjoy, it would be the freedom to vent, to not have to make efforts when effort-making gets hard, when loving becomes hard...which is as you know pretty much at least once a day.

Once the idea of enjoying being mean wore off, I then began to contemplate why being mean is so easy...and how people influence others with their ill-tempered attitudes. I even thought about Heath Ledger. I remember how some interviewers claimed he became so engrossed in his role as The Joker, he slipped into a darkness. I couldn't help but wonder if that influenced in any way the way his life ended.

We have choices to make every day. Some are much more simplistic than others. What if we thought about how we treated others more? What if we made concerted efforts to be nice, even when we don't feel like it?

Or you could always be mean and see where that path takes you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guess What?

Guess what?

I’m going out on a limb but I bet:

Bono’s had bad breath, Oprah’s had B.O., Beyonce gets a yearly, Stephen King’s used a bedpan, Obama’s been pummeled on the playground, Bette Midler has lost her voice, Miley Cyrus has had a face full of pimples, Jaqueline Kennedy had repeated bad hair days, John Denver had his not so rocky mountain high days, Michael Jordan has had athlete’s foot, 50 Cent has felt like less, Shakespeare had an abundance of ear wax, Bill Gates broke into a piggy bank, Albert Einstein had some memory lapses, Lance Armstrong has had an innerving hangnail, Sigmund Freud battled with his ID ego, Tom Cruise once had an embarrassing couch-jumping incident on national television, Brittany Spears had a mental slip for a period of time (sounding a little familiar now), Abraham Lincoln was insecure about his beard at times, Brad Pitt has wondered about his place in the world, Randy Pausch probably wanted to do more, Alan Greenspan has doubted his projections, Khaled Hosseini has written stuff he had to throw away, Suze Orman has lost her keys, Tyler Perry sometimes can’t find the funny, Jeff Bezos has checked the stock market with trepidation, and most controversial, I wonder if bin Laden ever wants to be found.

So what? Why do I write down all of these guesses?

Just a reminder that we are all human.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Signs

Sometimes you don't feel like talking. I know. I get that way too. Wouldn't it be nice at those times to have a road sign or some sign of an everyday message in your hands to hold up for all the world to see what you are trying to convey?

Here's where I'm going with that:

It's been a long day, you've changed more diapers than you can remember, made about 75 lists, completed tax information, filled out 7 papers for your child's school and you are bone tired as you are trying with all your might to remember your address to complete a form.

Your sign: Memory is Full (the message you hear when a phone answering machine is full)

Same type of day and your husband walks in the door.

Your sign: Caution

Same type of day and you've also been battling a nasty flu.

Your sign: Out of Order

You make it to the next morning, your spouse agreed to let you sleep in but you can tell they're wanting a little help with the children after a milk spill.

Your sign: Slow--No Wake

You are a thirty-year-old woman putting on makeup in front of the mirror and all of a sudden a zit is staring at you from the tip of your nose.

Your sign: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

You finally get that outing just for yourself where you can shop, buy yourself a Grande Mocha and veg on the benches surrounding the shopping plaza and a talkative perky mom pushing a stroller holding three of her chirping children, pulls up next to you to sit and feed all three of her now screaming children.

Your sign: No Parking

You are in an ongoing argument with your spouse and you know deep down that you are right and in the end you are going to win this one.

Your sign: Right of Way

Someone you know and love is making some stupid choices in their life.

Your sign: Rough Road Ahead

You are in the mood and don't feel like saying it.

Your sign: Deer Crossing

You spent a year coming up with a really meaningful anniversary gift for your spouse and you catch them snooping under the bed.

Your sign: No Fishing

You drop your children off at the neighbor's house and pop your head inside to make sure they're settled only to spy a table set up with bowlfuls of Cheetos, M&M's, Oreos and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

Your sign: Don't Feed the Animals

That was fun. Can't think of any more.

Happy talking and mute moments.








Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Touch Hispanic

After church service today I'm convinced I must be a touch Hispanic. We had a visiting pastor come share with our church a vision for the Hispanic community to be embraced by the church.

For some reason I've always been comfortable with friends from different ethnic backgrounds. I'm fascinated by their culture and I absolutely love to learn how they view life. So when the pastor today was describing some typical characteristics of the Hispanic community I was shocked.

I must be part Hispanic. He explained where he lived in San Antonio, Texas how the Hispanic people he knew there were always game for a celebration, in other words they liked to party. Check.

He then shared how Hispanic people tend to live for today, not fearing death but instead being present and fully alive. Check.

When he shared that Hispanic people are high-touch people, always ready for an embrace or a touch on the arm...well, if you know me I'll bet you are now wondering if I really am part Hispanic.

He also said they have a reverence and love for the older people amongst them. See my blog on Grandma J if you want to know where I stand on this one.

Finally, this pastor told our church that the Hispanic community seems to seek and search for God in anything, sometimes misled in their search. They find Jesus in tortillas and trees for example. As a young child, before I understood what a faith could look like, I very much had a mind sensitive to the spiritual. I may not have seen Jesus in a taco, but my mind was certainly open to his miracles and his presence.

The pastor did an excellent job of helping us to know the significance of why learning about the Hispanic community is important to all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike. Census predictors claim that in the year 2050, minorities will be the majority in America. So what does that mean for you? Is your mind open to that? And your heart?

What does it mean for me? It means I'm paying more attention to the verse he pointed us to during service.

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." Acts 17:26-27

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Than One

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I’d much rather ask questions than answer them. I’m pretty sure I like asking for two reasons. First, when I ask someone else I don’t have to be vulnerable in any way and knowing my bean spillage, I’d be likely to let out most of my secrets if I weren’t the asker. Second, I get to learn about others, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Today I’m challenging myself to answer some toughies:

If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
What was it like for you when your son was on the cross? When will the end of the world be? What is heaven like? How fun was it to create all the animals? When you get frustrated with humans what do you do? What is most fun for you? What makes you laugh the most? What can you tell me about length of time people get to be on earth…what reasoning there is why someone goes at a young age and someone else gets to live a full life? When you hang out with Jesus and the Spirit what do you guys talk about? What makes you cry? Tell me about all the miracles and how you performed them? This list is endless…I haven’t even touched upon the personal questions that stew in my mind.

What is one thing you are learning right now?
Letting go, patience, being still, being quiet, speaking up when it’s time, praying for those who hurt me, learning how to carve out time for myself, how to prioritize, forgiving myself and others, selflessness, how to communicate better, how to gain insight about my weaknesses, the importance of accountability, loving people right where they’re at, how to live my life for God’s glory, about the writing world and publishing industry, quilting, blogging, skyping, leading teenage girls, being appropriate with my humor, being a loving wife and mother…man, this list could take up forty days of blogging…better stop now…you get the gist.

If your house was on fire and you could grab one thing what would it be?
My children (hopefully my husband is already outside), my Bible, my dog, albums, sentimental letters, my manuscripts, my teddy bear (I know, how sad that a 30+-year-old woman is grabbing a teddy bear), my quilts, my address book, my planner, the pottery pieces I made for my girls, my perfume, baby books and baby boxes, the hand-crafted piece we use as an end table that converts to a rocking chair/desk/high chair, any creative piece a family member made for me, any hand lotion I find on my way out, my scrapbooks, my bread maker, the seashells my dad collected for the girls, I already keep some of my favorite books in my car so we’re good there, framed wedding photos, some spoons just because I like them, yummy smelling candles, Max Lucado’s, You Are Special book for my girls to remember it, my squishy pillow, my specialized recipe book, the Civil War belt (yes, dad I’d grab it), my cell phone (now we’re talking), at least one Willow Tree figurine my mom and I buy for each other, some diapers…for the little one, and I most likely would already have a cup of tea in my hand since I drink it 24/7, so I’ll bring that too.


Whenever I hear a question that asks me to answer it with one thing, I gulp.

Happy Asking and Answering to you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Favorite Book Title

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One of my favorite book titles is, There's a Wocket in My Pocket! by Dr. Seuss. I happen to think it puts a title like, War and Peace to shame.

That's all for today.

Home Life:
  • Love having a Dyson vacuum but I'm thinking the purpose of not having to change a bag is defeated every time I have to cut the dog hair out of the bottom of it.
  • Just learned that my second daughter is scared of Little Bunny Foo Foo being turned into a Goon. I'll remember to use it as a threat for her to listen the first time (completely kidding...I was actually glad she's learning to express her fears).

Happy Childhood Memories to you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Breathing

None of us need to be reminded of the fragility of life. I'm guessing all of us have probably experienced one heartbreak or another, reminding us that we do not dictate how long we get to be on this earth.

Today I heard about Natasha Richardson and I was deeply moved. Some people can hear about accidents like hers and have it hardly affect them, have it hardly even register. Not so with me. A news story like hers gets me thinking about life and everything temporary.

A friend of mine likes to quote the Allman Brothers, saying that on any given day any one of us could get hit by a peach truck. This resonates with me, especially having recently learned that my dad has lung cancer. I must admit I'm a little more cognizant of the impermanence of life.

Does it stir fear in me? NO. What it does do is cause me to want to make my life count all the more. It makes the festering question, "What am I here for?" all the more important for me to answer.

Thankful to be breathing. Stirred to live.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crying Monkey


I love the way a simple picture can evoke a strong feeling. This image does that for me. Sometimes I feel exactly like my little girl in this picture. Images are excellent that way. Good writers strive to do that with their writing by shrinking down phrases and dialogue to make it sound both believable and fluid.

Some of my favorite writing is short and sweet. I don't think you need all the highfalutin or flowery language to convey a deeper meaning or well-known feeling. I love it when authors do this by writing something like, "He sat down." If he/she built the scene up for us, did their work inviting us into the scene prior to it, a line like that can say so much. It can even say more to the reader then something like, "He sat down defeated."

I guess if I had to come up with words to describe this picture and how I feel sometimes I'd avoid the wordy, "Sometimes I feel like a child; immature, spent, exhausted and confused. I feel like crying out to the world and taking off my fake costume." While all of that may be true, I tend to be more attracted to writing something like this instead, "I was a crying monkey."

Hopefully, in whatever context this would be used in, whether it be a short story or a novel...that would make perfect sense.

Haven't we all felt like a crying monkey at one point or another in our lives?

Happy picture taking!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Quotes

I feel like posting some meaningful quotes on writing. Each of the following books nudged me forward in my writing journey.

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”
“The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story…to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story after all.”
“The adverb is not your friend.”
“I think you will find that, if you continue to write fiction,
every character you create is partly you.”
~ Stephen King (On Writing)

“Fiction structures an experience for the reader to live through. That is why its force is so great. You want your reader to feel a certain way, you want your reader to understand what you have been forced to understand—the insight that eludes words but that you know in your bones.”
~ Bonnie Friedman (Writing Past Dark)
“One motivation for becoming a writer is that one feels more comfortable dealing with written than spoken words.”
~ Ralph Keyes (The Courage to Write)

“We write to expose the unexposed.”
“Your job is to see people as they really are, and to do this, you have to know who you are in the most compassionate possible sense.”
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.”
~ Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird)

“But if I had to come up with one word to describe what writing passionately is all about, the word would be ‘risk.’”
“The people who are the most irresistible are those who are most themselves.”
~ Elizabeth Berg (escaping into the open)


“I write because I was meant to write, I was called to write, I was told to write.
I write because that’s who I am.”
“I want the book to be a leap forward. More than that, I want the writing itself—the individual sentences and paragraphs—to be good. I want the style to be my own, and I want it to soar. I pray each day to access the God-given creativity within me to be able to write a book that deserves a good readership and has the potential to stand the test of time. That’s all I really hope for. But it’s a lot.”
~ Elizabeth George (Write Away)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Do You Jump In?

I'm not sure you could call it an addictive personality. I'll be honest I don't know what you call it but it has been a part of me since I was a little kid. It has only grown in me since.

Here are some descriptions that might help you know what I'm referring to...I dive in instead of stepping down the pool ladder gradually and then I try with all my might to reach the drain at the bottom of the pool. I ordered and finished an entire steak meal on a first date with my husband. While thinking it might be nice to be a part of a mom's group, I found myself creating one and then leading it.

I go at this thing called life with gusto. Why not? Sometimes this thing in me, the idea of throwing myself entirely into something has been risky (showing up when I climbed an abandoned building and made some other unmentionable decisions.)

For the most part I like this about me. I like that I don't hem and haw over the big decisions in life. Instead, I'm the pathetic one in line at the deli counter taking twice the desired time making a decision about a sandwich order because it's the little things that stump me.

But throw a tragedy at me, send a challenge my way and I'm all over it. I think there are few things more beautiful then when someone rises to the occasion. Few things do it for me like watching someone be who they are supposed to be and do it unabashed. Maybe the closest relative to the thing I'm referring to is confidence...but I know that's not quite it because I'm too much of a dichotomy in that arena.

Here's what I know...I know when it overtakes me. I've learned when to act on it and I know...

I don't do life half-assessed (play on words intentional).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kill the Mice!

I've probably sounded a little too much like William Golding's fabricated representation of evil lately...good old Jack in Lord of the Flies.

Instead of walking through the house yelling, "Kill the Beast," I've been mumbling every time I pass a certain corner, "Kill the Mice!" *This blog is not for the animal rights activist or for those fighting for the rights of mice (good book title by the way...maybe too much like Of Mice and Men)...Anyway...
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This is the second time this winter that a mouse (I'm convinced the animal is much closer to an elk or moose, the way its fumes smack you down) has crawled into a sacred place behind our wall and died. And as I'm sure you know, where there's one mouse...there's an army of mice. Good times!

I'm now going to use this story to give you a perfect example of how my husband and I differ in how we handle conflict.

I, as stated before, grumble around the house declaring a mass execution of the little critters, while my husband wants to "wait it out." Is that like smoke it out with no smoke? What? Wait what out, the smell? He actually said that the smell will begin to dissipate once "the juices dry up." Really hope none of you are eating as you read this.

So there you have it...I want action and I want it now. My husband with his unbelievable gift of patience wants to wait...This is exactly how we deal with conflict in our lives. I want things solved--a pretty little bow. He's willing to work on the puzzle for months or years if that's what it takes. So, who's right you wonder? Well the fair thing to say would be...we both are. I'm going to argue that we are both wrong. How constructive.

In other words, as I'm in the upstairs bathroom paranoid that one Pied Piper mouse led his friends up there to die, my husband insists one or two traps is enough to rid the house of the mutant rodents--we are somehow not coming together on this.

I'm not suggesting we need to nuke the place to rid it of all the decomposing mice and I'm also not so sure we need to sit around buying extra candles to mask the smell of the "juices."

What's the happy medium? Haven't found it yet...but I won't quit now.

Still, in the quiet moments when all the children are tucked into bed and my husband is caught up watching a basketball game on TV, it takes everything in me not to burst out and yell with the vocals of a prepubescent boy on an island with no adults, "Kill the mice!"

Home Life:

  • If I had a dollar for every itty bitty toy part I just found in the dog's poop outside, well...I'd probably have enough money to buy back those toys in their original form.
  • I really need to find a way to get the dog to stop eating the toddler's food and the toddler to stop eating the dog's food.

Merry conflict resolution and mice-catching to you!

Friday, March 13, 2009

We's Idiots

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People are idiots. I write that with love in my heart. People are idiots though...the whole lot of us (I included myself in that lot...so you can all rest easy...this won't be some bashing rant about others).

No wonder we are compared to sheep so many times in the Bible. Sheep are just about the dumbest animal you can find. They don't want to be led. God got this. He still gets it. But he never makes us feel smaller or less than because of it. He simply guides us as a loving shepherd would. That amazes me.

Think about it. He came down to earth and mixed among the idiots...only to then die for them; for us. What love that must have required!

There are times when it's obvious I'm supposed to be learning a lesson. A similar message will be coming at me from several unique directions. I'll read something in the Bible, a friend will mention it to me and then I'll be awake tossing and turning thinking of the very "lesson" I'm to learn. Sometimes it takes many more than obvious whacks over the head until I get it. Oh, I'm supposed to be learning patience through this or oh, I don't make a very good god of my life.

I've been known to voice to God in frustration, "What are you trying to teach me?" If I'm feeling a little more bold I'll say, "How fast do you think I can learn this, God?" I picture him looking at me, shaking his head with something of a smirk on his face, perhaps even thinking, "I hope she gets it this time."

When I see how cruel people are to one another, how easily people can, in their ignorance hurt one another or how they wander off becoming ensnared in some ugly life patterns, it's easy for me to think, "That idiot."

Not so easy though when a glaring message or theme is reoccurring in my life and after the third or 100th time I finally clue in that I'm to be absorbing something. I'm just so thankful I don't believe I have a God that shakes his head at me thinking or saying for that matter, "That idiot."

Grateful for freedom to learn. Grateful for my Leader.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pretend Friends

My oldest daughter recently informed me that she has a pretend friend.

It made me think of the pretend friends I had when I was little (a ghost and a witch...now that's a story for another time). The girl friend was named Laura (most likely because I loved Laura from The Little House on the Prairie) and the boy, well his name is a little more interesting. I named him Gin Gin (yes, spelled that way in my mind). How very...well...how very telling.

Mom, if you are reading this, I wonder if his name had anything to do with those wild parties you and Dad hosted while we lived in Germany? What wild parties, you say? Two words for you...Human Pyramids!

Anyway, Laura and Gin Gin trailed behind me and gathered beside me at my every request. I had three older sisters and was hardly bored or rarely found myself alone, but I think my pretend friends were something just for me. I also suspect with my overactive imagination in those tender elementary years I couldn't help but create Laura and Gin Gin.

Sometimes I wonder if the characters in my books are my present day "pretend friends." I know...I know...a little sappy (and a little scary if you don't know me well enough to know that I'm only slightly mentally askew--or to know that I'm joking now).

What I'm getting at is that I think all of us, no matter what stage of life we are in, need to find something "just for us." We all need to find our place in this world and in the process of doing so we could potentially create figments of our imagination to fill that special need. *Caution: I am not referring to any form of mental illness here...just wanted to make that perfectly clear before I continue...What I am referring to has more to do with being a writer and well...let's say...facebook. I'm willing to guess there are hundreds of facebook friends that fall more into the category of pretend friend than real friend for some.

When Brooke told me the name of her pretend friend I was moved. She named her Water. And in true Brooke fashion, she explained the purpose of her friend. They are alike in that both of their names quite simply are forms of...water. I wonder what her pretend friend Water looks like in her mind. I wonder if it helps her feel less alone in the world and more like she can identify with someone/something.

I wonder if Brooke will be a writer someday?

Give your friends and pretend friends a hug today :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gone Are the Days

I've been thinking about change this morning. I like to joke with people that I don't belong in this technological age even though I know I do. I guess I say that because I miss real conversation. I enjoy the old fashion concept of two people sitting in rockers on their porch talking til the sun goes down. So it got me thinking...what else has changed? What else do I miss or think is interesting enough to write about because it has changed?

Here goes:

Gone Are the Days:


  • No more peanut butter and jelly (or fluff for that matter) sandwiches sent to school due to too many kids having peanut allergies.
  • Fewer long phone conversations because you can get more to the point with a text message.
  • Walkmans are now iPods.
  • Bye bye to the days when drinking whole milk was good for you...now we're told to drink thin, see-through skim.
  • Pens -- keyboards.
  • Fear of getting on a plane because it might crash has been replaced with fear of getting on a plane because it might be taken over by terrorists...which as a result has changed so many policies about getting on a plane.
  • Good old fashion letter writing is not as desirable as sending an email.
  • Facebook is a substitute for real connection and meeting for coffee.
  • Stevia or Truvia are more natural than sugar.
  • One of a kind dogs and sheep -- cloned dogs and sheep.
  • Invetro twin or triplet babies -- invetro octuplet babies.
  • Books into e-books.
  • Print magazines into e-zines.
  • Finally, I just heard on Oprah yesterday that Dr. Oz is suggesting that doctors switch from ties to bow ties (in order to prevent the spread of germs when they bend down and check patients). Now what is the world coming to...bow ties?!

This is just a spontaneous list I created of noticeable changes from even 10-20 years ago. I'm a proponent of change and growth...but that doesn't mean I don't miss the way things used to be. It doesn't mean I don't evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of change.

King Solomon professed there is nothing new under the sun and I am bound to agree. Even as the world slowly transforms into a technological dome of "connection" and immediacy, we are just finding ways to do what's already been done...and in doing so I believe in some circumstances we might be slipping away from the very things we are trying to create...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chasing the Fox

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I have absolutely no idea what I want to write about today. I thought of writing stories to prove I was a weird kid. Then I thought to write about how everyone always seems so desperate for spring this time of year. Those thoughts didn't stick. Instead, I think I'll write about what happened this morning.

Every day this time of year tends to feel a bit like Groundhog Day. Wake up, run around the house performing one hundred and one tasks for my children, including getting one on the bus, changing a diaper and serving breakfast...the list goes on...well like I wrote...to one hundred and one. All of this while waiting...waiting on spring...waiting on warmth.

And this happens every day. Every morning. We are rooted in routine and sometimes that can feel endless in a depressing way. But on this day I saw something. I saw something unexpected.

I was waiting for the bing from the microwave to let me know the water for my tea was heated when I glanced out the window. And what I saw next could have been something read straight out of a children's book.

I saw a fox, a splintery-tailed, auburn perky-eared fox trotting in our backyard. My heart fluttered. Something. There it is...now that is something. And then I noticed, not only had I caught sight of the fox, but our 70lb Samoyed did as well. She was following its steps with her head. And faster then I could bang on the glass to distract her and avert her chase, she was off.

Her polar bear body raced after the dashing escapee. It was a fascinating interaction from the very start. My eyes to the fox, to the dog, to the dog trying to catch the fox.

It hit me what seemed so elemental, so basic was actually something quite exciting and stirring. Every single day could be viewed as boring and routine. But life is constantly trotting all around us...we just may not be tuned into the happenings, to the exciting.

This morning I was attentive and thankfully so. I saw the chase. Heck, I wanted to dart after the fox after the interaction that I saw.

Maybe that's what I'm doing as I write this...in my own way... maybe I'm chasing the fox.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Testing Ropes

Okay, here I am...officially looking for an agent. Day One. Manuscript has been completed for months now (dabbling with a second and even third book idea). Five cold readers, including an editor of a well-known Christian magazine all provided me with feedback. Received strong feedback...comments like, "I found it difficult to put down" or "I cried when so and so..." Yes, I made 'em cry, I think to myself when I hear that. Healthy response, right? I guess my desire is for the reader to connect and shedding tears proves connection.

So, with all this positive feedback (and some well-needed critique) why do I feel like a little girl asking agencies if they like me...um...my book...if they want to give it a shot...as if I'm hanging on for their answer? I guess because I am hanging on. It's as if they are the rope that swings me from my own world of writing to the other side, the side where the whole world can read my creation. I've had a lot of fun fantasizing on this side, whacking my fingers away at the keyboard and pouring out my stories and thoughts...and I admit for months now I've been scared to even grab onto a rope. I guess that's what I did by sending out queries today. I'm testing ropes (hoping one will hold).

I write for me. I'll write until I'm old whether I am profusely published or not. Ah, but I'd lie to say I haven't dreamed of holding a hard copy of my own book in print.

I realize I could have a long road ahead of me, but feel like the timing is right, with my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms (in stores by the end of the month) and knowing I've plucked at the manuscript more than a tarred chicken.

It's swinging time...just hoping I grab onto a rope that holds.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Clinging?

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What are you clinging to?

Had several paragraphs written...and they were erased somehow (too tired to write again).

So I guess that is my core thought today...I am trying to cling to Truth.

What are you clinging to?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Simple and Arbitrary

A Simple and Arbitrary List of Things I Like:

The sound people make when they've just finished a good meal.
That my dog doesn't know or care how often I've been published.
The way my husband looks at me after I've gotten my hair done.
How a lake reflects a setting sun.
How my children stick their tongues out when they are drawing.
Being able to identify star patterns.
Walking barefoot from spring to fall.
Telling the truth when the truth needs to be told.
Reaching in my coat pocket and patting the knitted baby hats I received after delivering each of my girls in the hospital.
Having my hair played with.
Knowing I caused someone else to laugh or smile.
Avocados...guacamole.
Shooting hoops by myself.
Taking bites off my husband's plate.
Whispering sweet things to my children as they sleep.
Knowing I'm still growing.
Finishing a book.
Singing (though I am not gifted in doing so).
Dreaming (while awake and sleeping).
The gratitude I feel for those who've helped me to be who I am today.
That there is no end.



Friday, March 6, 2009

Limb-ouch

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I am not a very political person. I care about the way the country is being run, I just tend not to delve deeply into political discussions, debates and arguments for that matter. I've voted Republican before. I've voted Democrat before. Guess I am just a girl who likes to swing (I am not referring to anything but politics here...get your minds out of the gutter).

With this in mind I will say I've been recently disappointed by the well-known Republican supporter, Rush Limbaugh. What's up with wanting someone to fail? What good can come of that? My mom and I were speaking about this topic earlier today on the phone. She said she wouldn't even wish failure upon her greatest enemy and it got me thinking.

How many people out there really are hoping that others fall? Who are the people waiting for their neighbors to lose a job, get divorced, fall from fame's limelight? And what the heck is that all about? My friend and co-worker from a job I held years ago provided me with a wonderful picture of what this looks like in the animal kingdom.

It's as if we are all just a bunch of crabs wading deep in a bucket and one crab claws its way up to the far reaches of the bucket, grabbing with its slippery wet claw the rim, when all of a sudden the crabs below him do a pile-on in order for one to swipe the one close to freedom down and back into the bucket pit with them.

I won't claim to know much about Mr. Limbaugh and all he was trying to express, but I will say his proclamation of wishing anyone, especially our President to fail is disheartening.

We all have areas we need to grow in, to strengthen. If only we could allow others the freedom we desire and need to become greater, better; richer in integrity wouldn't that be something? Well, at least it would be better than hoping for someone to fall flat and fail.

Writing Honestly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shine On

For some reason I've been thinking about a book I remember reading and liking as a little kid. I don't know the name of it, but its message has stayed with me.

Here are the basics of the story. The sun and wind have a type of bet going on to see which of them can get a man at a park to take off his jacket first. The wind is convinced if it blows hard enough and uses all its forceful strength it can whip the jacket right off the guy. The sun, on the other hand knows that if it just does what its designed to do, shine its rays, it will warm the man enough where he'll want to shed his coat. Well, no surprise -- the sun wins. The man bundles his jacket tighter around himself as the wind barrels in and he gets hot when the sun shines down causing him to remove his coat.

The moral of the story is about being kind to others and not forceful towards them and you'll see results. I'm all for killing people with kindness. I do that with a nice concoction of boundaries. I try to find the healthy blend of the two. I'm pretty sure the story stuck with me though because far too many people try to force others to see things the way they do. Far too many people project, displace and throw up their anger on others hoping to see results. The visuals in this book are so simple, yet powerful. Shine upon others warmth, grace, forgiveness and you are more apt to see them respond to you.

I know this doesn't always work and that's when the boundaries part comes in. There is a time and place to shine perhaps upon someone else and leave those who can't respect you in the shade for a time. I pray for clarity on this one a lot.

I often gravitate towards books, authors, movies, TV shows, and philosophic thinking that is convoluted and complex and I'm always refreshed when a simple thought produces stunning truth to me.

This book did that for me as a little kid and is still doing that today.

Home Life:

  • Just a few weeks ago I was reading Max Lucado's, You Are Special (another simple book with profound truth) to my girls and as I was reading it I began to cry. One of my girls had brought it over to me to read and I remember thinking to myself, 'Oh, this will be a great teaching moment'. Little did I realize as I continued reading, I was being reminded of where I need to seek validation and affirmation. I was the one being taught.
  • I like the jeans I have on today ($16 from TJ Maxx).
  • I love discussing with my children all the possibilities of what they want to be when they grow up...so far I've heard: principal, teacher, artist, writer, doctor, and picker...kind of wondering what a picker does?

Shine On......

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Seattle

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We lived in Seattle for two years just after we were married.
Here are some memories of the land and experience:

Surrounded by mountains, feeling small as the head of a pin.
Authentic ethnic restaurants reminding the way the world wraps around.
Fish market commotion rattling out life, from the vibrant bundles of sunflowers and lilies
to fish flying between hands.
I felt alive in Seattle, like the life that hits the foot as it slaps seersucking to wet beach sand.
520 bridge stretched out before me like a tunneled nature scope.
All about water, evergreens, mountains with ice cream tops of snow.
Microsoft best practices, spoiled with gourmet lunches “on campus.”
True team attitude as the world was being reformatted one technological link and click at a time.
Rain drizzle a constant, a steady, something to trust. As natural on the cheek as a brush of blush. Something to respect or accept because July into August only sun.
Hiking Mt. Rainier amidst slopes of snow in t-shirt, warm blood coursing within,
breath quickened by sight and height.
Tulip Festival, a spray of bulbous floral plants. A sea of tulips each one identical to the one beside it at a distance. At closer glance, each one from its own seed, with its own splendid hue.
Just a glimpse, a sip, a simple stroke of what was there then at that time.
Of what I saw, felt and lived. I don’t miss what flickers easily in memory.
Sometimes though I miss the way Seattle rain felt in my hair, upon my cheek.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ticking Strong

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My neighbor's heart has a resounding tick that is pronounced every time she acts in kindness. I'm guessing she's in her late 70's and aside from my mom, she is the exact kind of woman I aspire to be. She's a grandma, an avid walker and reader, a supporter of the American Heart Association and one sharp cookie if you ask me.

I've never heard her complain as she shovels her driveway time and time again as we are pummeled by snowstorms. In fact, while I was in corralling the girls one day she even came to shovel my driveway. She complacently shovels outside in the frigid weather for hours at a time.

She's constantly surprising us with freshly picked blueberries or my favorite, her specially made pizzells (they melt in my mouth). She's asked my girls to call her Grandma J and since I am horrible with names and she's labeled herself something simple, I've taken to calling her that as well.

Grandma J fills a wonderful role in my life. We don't live near family and all of my grandparents are deceased. I love catching sight of her a mile from our homes, carrying bags of groceries or out for what you can tell is a heart-pumping walk. Seeing her brings me immediate comfort.

She's quick to compliment my sweater, play with my girls, write a thank you in response to my thank you note or to encourage me to relax and enjoy these years when my children are young.

Grandma J is one of the strongest women I know. This strength rises from within her, something steady and inborn like the presence of a heartbeat.

Thankful for those who use their ticker.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Golden Nuggets

Thought it might be fun to list some key pieces of advice I've been given over the years.
  1. Life is Beautiful. Life is Cruel. ~ My mom's pastor told her this when she was young.
  2. Every morning pray about who God puts in your path. Pray specifically how you can show them God's love. ~ Mike Breaux (former pastor at the church where we lived in Lexington).
  3. Be careful what you watch on TV. Ask yourself if you'd invite the characters on the program into your home...essentially that is what you are doing. ~ Mike Breaux
  4. Have a sense of humor about sex. ~ My mother-in-law (of all people).
  5. If you are having difficulty understanding why someone would act or behave a certain way remind yourself that you don't know how you would act given the exact same set of circumstances. ~ Friend from our small group
  6. Learn to laugh at yourself. ~ Not sure where I got this one but it was too good not to write.

I'm sure I've heard and retained more advice than what's on this list but this is what came to mind this morning.

What's the best piece of advice you've received?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reaching Out

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I am really thankful for what we are learning about at church. My husband calls me a bobble head church member. Whenever I agree with what our pastor is teaching, my head nods up and down quite readily. That was me today. We just finished up looking in Romans at verses that show how Jesus was a belong, believe then behave kind of teacher.

When I think of Jesus I love to picture him laughing, hanging out at parties, healing the blind, forcing people out of the temple who were disrespecting it, holding the Pharisees accountable, chillin' by the well, bending down near the adulterous woman scratching in the sand to distract all eyes. I like to picture Jesus as he is, accepting, loving and reaching out from the very start. There is no way in all of our attempts we could even try to clean up for him. We are all a mess. But he comes to sit with us anyway, to heal us, to love us...right where we are at. Now that is good stuff!

Home Life:

  • An Irish friend recently recommended Barry's Tea (in a red box)...I'm thankful. It's good and strong.
  • The sound of my girls giggling today is irresistible...not going to write more so I can go join in.

Thankful for a God who laughs!