Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day and Life Updates

  • The small group study, Becoming A Good Samaritan is changing me. I highly recommend you or your church check this out.

  • With my pursuit of publication I’m in the waiting room anticipating the doctor’s thoughts.

  • We have some exciting summer plans; however the kids are still in school for another four weeks.

  • I’ve killed off any new plant we bought for the outdoors already. I am wondering if the deep snow this winter popped up a new gorgeous white iris this year.

  • In a little over week, I’ll begin edits on my sixth novel.

  • Blogger has been presenting some major operating difficulties over the past week. This is frustrating b/c I love the connecting part of blogging.

  • Happy Memorial Day & I’m wondering if our local parade will pass by our street in a little over an hour because I keep seeing streaks of lightning out my window as I write this.

  • Please hang in and continue to visit ~ thoughts that move ~ even if you can’t comment. I’m trusting all will get back to normal soon with comments and believing I’ll be able to comment on my own posts soon too (maybe even today).

~ Wendy

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Author, Susan Meissner asked a phenomenal question for the online writing community, TWV2 recently. She asked us to consider what we’d share with graduates if we were giving a commencement speech.

Here's what I would share:

1. Take creative risks.

2. Acquire a thirst for learning.

3. How you treat people in any career you pursue will either add to or subtract from your character.

And after this week of attempting to abstain from the “L” word I let you know, on Monday, I added a fourth message.
4. Love and love well.

What would you like to say to graduates?

*photos by flickr
**Blogger ate a lot of comments from Wed. Several of you emailed or sent word on FB that you couldn’t leave your thoughts. That bites. I know you visited (stats were strong), but it’s your thoughts that fuel me on this blog. If you remember the gist of what you had to say, feel free to try again (hopefully Blogger is stuffed and won’t eat any more comments).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Novel Tumor

I know a thing or two about tumors. My older sister has had an astrocytoma in her brain for twenty years. Sounds like the name of a star or a heavenly constellation. I wish. It’s a malignant brain tumor that for some unknown reason hasn’t killed her. But it has greatly impacted her standard of living.

This brings me to novel tumors.

In a few weeks, I’ll begin edits on my sixth novel. I’ll be on the lookout for these beastly growths. Do you know what a novel tumor could possibly be? If you guessed an unneeded character or a scene that spins the novel off course, then you got it.

Novel tumors are anything growing rampant in a work that shouldn’t be there. It’s worth it to consider cutting these.

Examples include:
rabbit trails, overwriting, a theme or message shoved into a scene, overly manipulated conflict and/or tension, floundering or weak characters, awkward dialogue, flowery language, resolve that occurs too “conveniently”, lectures or preachy scenes, scenes with no point (floating on a duck pond instead of rushing down a river), long weather descriptions, scenes out of voice or POV, and too much exposition or backstory

I intend to be vigilant with my edits. Novel tumors don’t always show up immediately like they do on MRIs or CAT scans. Because these weak places aren’t always easy to spot, I’ll have to dig further than pesky backyard moles to get to them.

Sometimes novel tumors are masked as benign when really they have the potential to cause a slow decay and miserable atrophy.

This reminds me of my teeth. I had a root canal on a tooth back in my twenties. Every time I visit the dentist I’m told I should consider a crown for that tooth. I keep blowing it off, insisting I don’t feel any pain. Finally, a dental hygienist was smart enough to call me out. “You won’t feel pain,” she said. “That tooth has had a root canal.”

I can proceed with my edits pretending certain novel tumors won’t cause pain to the outcome of my work, but by doing that I’m only delaying the inevitable. Tumors spread. Tumors are ugly. They don’t belong. Tumors need to be excised from novels. As writers, we hold the scalpel in our hands whenever we sit to edit our work.

It’s my prayer novel six will make it through surgery.

“’When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story…When you rewrite your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.’” from Stephen King’s On Writing

*photo by flickr

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Colossal Failure—Love is meant to Be Shared

I put myself through a week-long experiment and I failed miserably. I’m 100% okay with proclaiming that failure. I tried to go one week without saying or writing the word love. Not writing it was easier than not saying it. I’m pretty sure I uttered it more than usual to my family members or I became more cognizant of how often I said it.

I found ways to creatively express how I felt as well, but I stumbled to find a more suitable word in some scenarios. Sometimes love suits the occasion best. Sometimes love is the best word. Even in and with the small things.

Last Monday, several of you commented about how other cultures have different words for love. I thought of the Greek words phileo and agape and how they represent two unique kinds of love.

I also appreciated the thoughts Amy Sonnichsen’s comment stirred:

“I do think it's unfortunate that our English language only has one word for so many different kinds of love. When we lived in China, people would laugh at me if I said in Chinese, "I love living in China!" because they didn't use the word "love" for that emotion. I liked having lots of different words for it -- it made expressing the love we have for people feel much more protected. :)”

Protected…that was the word that stuck with me.

Author, Susan Meissner asked a phenomenal question for the online writing community, TWV2 recently. She asked us to consider what we’d share with graduates if we were giving a commencement speech.

Here's what I would share:

1. Take creative risks.

2. Acquire a thirst for learning.

3. How you treat people in any career you pursue will either add to or subtract from your character.
And after this week of attempting to abstain from the “L” word I’d add a fourth message.
4. Love and love well.

Conclusion: I think it’s far better to overuse the word than to use it too sparingly, to be generous with how often we express love than stubbornly being a miser with it.

Some quotes about love that I love:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." C.S. Lewis

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." Mother Teresa

"Where there is love there is life." Mahatma Gandhi

Continue the conversation…what say you about love this week (ah, it feels so good to write that word!)?

*photos by flickr

Friday, May 20, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What makes your heart race?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing toward the Questions by Michelle DeRusha

“I don’t do deep thoughts,” I said to him after we’d been dating for just a few weeks. I don’t recollect the exact topic he had raised – it may have been religion or philosophy or quantum physics -- but I clearly recall my need to set the record straight. This man with the shock of unruly hair and the quiet, kind demeanor seemed fond of big, open-ended questions. And thus I felt compelled to state my case from the start: topics that pushed at the boundaries or raised questions I couldn’t begin to answer – from God to existentialism to string theory – were taboo.

As the daughter of a sergeant major, I followed all the rules – at home, in school, at church. I never missed a curfew, never drank or smoked and always cleaned my room. I studied hard, got good grades and joined the Latin Club. I genuflected before I slid into the pew every Saturday evening, memorized the Ten Commandments in CCD and ducked behind the red velour curtain to confess my sins once a month. I was good. I didn’t question authority. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t question God.

For the first 20 years of my life I repeated the motions of belief – church, confirmation classes, confessional. I assumed practicing belief was the same as actual belief – or at least close enough to keep me out of Hell.

The next 15 were the frozen years. I didn’t believe in God, but yet I also didn’t admit that to myself or to anyone else. I simply turned off that part of my consciousness completely. I “didn’t do deep thoughts” I told myself and my future husband – end of story.

The problem was that God and religion (and string theory, for that matter) presented questions I couldn’t answer and possibilities I couldn’t comprehend. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept of incarnation or resurrection. I couldn’t fathom eternal life. I couldn’t picture what Heaven might look like. None of these abstractions fit into my structured, black-and-white existence. And because they didn’t fit, I dismissed them altogether.

And then, five years ago, I started to write. I sat at the computer in the basement, placed my fingers on the keyboard and began to record stories of my childhood. The result, of course, was that the questions I’d suppressed for nearly my entire life bubbled to the surface. And no one was more surprised than I to discover that within those questions I felt the first faint possibility of real belief.

“Wanting to know where we are going is often how we fail to go anywhere at all,” writes Julia Cameron in The Sound of Paper. Cameron is referring to the writing process in general, but her observation applies to life and faith as well. It took me more than two decades to realize that I wanted all the answers without ever asking the questions. I wanted to know the outcome before I even dared step on the path.

I suspect writing and faith will always be entwined for me. On the page I found the courage to ask the questions. And in the questions I found the answer I had yearned for all along.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska 10 years ago, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens…and God. She writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at her blog Graceful. She’s also written a memoir, Leap Year: A Story of Finding Place…and Grace, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary.

Thank you, Michelle, for writing this guest post. I’m honored by your presence here and more than excited to read your memoir. (Bonus: You make me laugh.)

As a result of reading or writing, have you ever had questions bubble to the surface?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Abstaining from the “L” Word

This post is going to be tricky to write. I have to avoid a word and not just any word, but one of my favorites. I’ve decided to put myself through a week-long experiment. For one week I will refrain from saying (or writing) the “L” word in any capacity. Why? I see you leaning in closer to your computer, itching for a reason.

Of course I’ll tell you.

I overuse it. Guilty as charged. In part, this is because I’m overflowing with the stuff. And this is a good thing, but I’ve noticed I’ve gotten into the habit of tacking it on many of my tweets and in many of my blog comments. Now, I may be experiencing legitimate “L” feelings, but I’m challenging myself to express my reactions in more creative ways this next week. Even better, I’m going to work hard to SHOW this to those I come in contact with (which will be exceptionally exigent to do with you folks).

My kids have already had a field day working to break me (started yesterday). It’s like something Treadstone might try (Borne series, anyone?). But I’m going to stick to this. Feel free to hold me to it.

Next Monday, I’ll let you know how the experiment went.

Other than potentially during Lent, have you ever tried doing something like this? Have you noticed how the “L” word gets stripped of its meaning sometimes?

*Confession: I’ve already failed several times with my kids. I’ve decided it’s not such a bad thing to fail this experiment where they are concerned. Truth be told, I even failed with the dog.
**photo by flickr

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Peeling an Orange for the Smell of It

Why do I Write? (Last “official” question from my 8 Questions Every Writer Must Ask Themselves post.)

What a loaded question, huh?

I’ll answer it this way…

Same reason:
You peel an orange for the smell
Hurley needed to see what was in the hatch
Describing leaves as merely green doesn’t always do a tree justice
Your eyes opened a little wider the first time you saw an acrobat, a horseshoe crab, a snail
You feed an addiction
People people-watch
You dive into the water without knowing how cold it is, without caring
Your heart rate spikes when you read the first and last lines of a book
The sleep-deprived toss and turn
You forget about sniffing the cork and go straight for the bottle
You stare at your spouse at rest as morning light falls across the bed
A psychologist gets a degree
You rub your fingers over your dog’s ear as though it were lamb’s ear from your garden
George Bailey held onto Zuzu’s petals and kissed the stair post that drove him nuts
Holden craved innocence and Death had to speak
God used the Bible to tell a breathtaking story
It’s about stimulating all those triggers that remind me I’m alive.

And why is answering this question important if you claim to be a writer? Because, as with so many things in life, if you don’t know why you do them you’re left without conviction, without drive to fight when the time for fighting comes. If you have no reason for why you write, you might wake up one day to find writing has no reason for you.

You’ve been shot with the arrow, why do you write?

*photo by flickr

Monday, May 9, 2011

Conversation with My Dreams

I’m in a field, sun warm on my face, stretched out on a blanket of grass, clovers and dandelions. Gazing to the heavens.

I begin the conversation with my dreams:

Me: You seem so far from me, dancing up there amidst the clouds, found in the blue layers of sky.

Dreams: I’m not so far.

A bee and dragonfly spar and flit for my attention. I turn my head for a moment and shield my eyes with my hand so I can stare again at the seahorse and sea lion clouds roaming above.

Me: Whenever I feel like you’re in my grasp, you drift on like migrating butterflies, elusive, teasing almost.

Dreams: I’m still in your grasp.

I yawn and catch the earth scents of dirt and lavender in my mouth as soon as it opens.

Me: When are you then, years away? How can that be if I’m speaking to you? If you’re answering me?

Dreams: I’m not years away.

Me: Where are you? Answer me at least that much. If I squint hard enough will I find you dangling between the layers of blue?

Dreams: No.

I snatch a dandelion from the ground, then split the stem to feel the watery inside, and smear the yellow of the weed on my fingertips.

Dreams: I’m there.

The sound of rustling leaves lures me to glance at the waving trees in every shade of green across the field.

Me: Across the field, there in the trees?

Dreams: Not there. Hold your hand up.

Me: The sun is in my eyes.

Still, I lift my hand, holding it in front of the sun.

Me: Should I point to something?

Dreams: No, look.

Me: At what?

All I see through squinty eyes is a halo of gold around the stitched, woven lines on the inside of my palm. I can also make out the swirls on the tips of my fingers, lines like I’ve seen on the inside of a tree.

Dreams: Do you see now?

A bird soars above and my heart lifts. Have I discovered the place of my dreams? Can I stop wondering when it will all come to fruition? It’s the bird in flight.

Me: The bird?

Dreams sighs, then: No. You don’t see?

Me: The only other thing in my direct vision besides the bird and the clouds and the sun and the sky is my hand. I see faint blue veins jutting out like tree branches. And lines. So many lines on it.

Dreams: You are beginning to see.

Me: Surely this isn’t you.

Dreams: Not all of me, no. Not in entirety. But it’s where I start. I’m born here. Every time you reach out to stroke your daughter’s cheek or tickle your husband’s side, every moment you press me down to make a word, every time you extend a part of yourself to pass love onto another…that is my inception.

I bring my fingers under my nose and inhale the yellow scent of dandelion.

Me: All this time I thought you were somewhere out there. Something to be reached, accomplished, grasped.

Dreams: And I was part of you all along.

I smile. Then I stand and look down at where my body pressed the grass down. I watch as a blade rises like the small hand on a clock moving from ten to twelve. Moving to point to the sky.

I peer at my hands.

Me: Part of me. Here. Now.

What would your dreams say to you?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Don’t Let Distractions Bite Back

I’m taking a bite of my sixth question from my 8 Questions Every Writer Must Ask Themselves post, and chomping down on: Am I disciplined and if self-discipline is a challenge for me, what do I plan to do to improve in that area?

We are all distracted. It’s an ADHD nation. Check out the following list yammering at me throughout the day (especially during key writing times)…

call bank about statement, email, twitter, Facebook, Blogger (love you guys), order gift for Mo day, sign papers for daughter’s school, make note of soccer schedule change, switch out winter and summer clothes, buy Band-aids, change sheets, throw away old games, buy new summer shoes for girls, clean under kitchen cabinet, plan menu, do something about toenails, build platform, build platform, build platform, find better allergy medicine for daughter, read, pick weeds, make homemade bread dough, laundry…ugh, put recycles out, buy new printer cartridge, take back the pants that don’t fit, run, hunt for new dresser to refurbish, get rid of jiggle on the backside, help daughter with Sacagawea biography project, help other daughter with fairy tale 3-D diorama, clean toilets…yuck, call friends to set up time to hang out, organize for mom’s group, remind myself of girls on daughter’s soccer team I coach, send that thank you, pray hard about vision for writing, pray for kids before school, wipe gunk off windows, get groceries, put wire around peonies so they’ll grow right, call mom, call niece for birthday, apply flea medicine to dog, check for ticks on kids after they play outside, clean dishes, touch up paint on the walls where daughter made pen marks...

There you have it…dozens of things that compete for my attention at any given moment. Bet you have a list with cankles, too!

If self-discipline doesn’t come naturally to you, know that it will take time to develop. You won’t learn the art of the BIC soldier response overnight.

Here are some questions you can poke yourself with to help ascertain how willing you are to become more self-disciplined…

How much am I willing to invest (money, time, and/or sacrificing leisure activities?) in honing discipline skills?

Does my schedule reflect what I want to assign as top priority in my life?

Do I have an ADHD approach to writing? Look, a bird. New email. Shoot, my nail chipped, better file it. TweetDeck here I come.

Does passion alone fuel me to write or do I have an underlying commitment to my project whether I feel the passion or not?

What practical steps will I take to become more self-discipline? (Ideas: Make a list of goals each week and stick by them. Shut off social networks for an allotted time. Talk to family members about specific needs and expectations. Research things effective and efficient people do that works. Reward yourself when you meet goals. Have a friend hold you accountable. Pray before you even begin writing. Turn off the TV. Buy inexpensive motivators, i.e. pens and journals. Challenge yourself to write five minutes longer every day for three weeks. Write down accomplishments and read these to help motivate you. Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.)

What are your thoughts on self-discipline?

*photo by flickr
**Jody Hedlund also recently ate this topic and regurgitated
this wonderful advice

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reading on a Limb

Do you branch out with what you read?

There’s value in reading different kinds of books just as there’s value in reaching out to shake someone’s hand, who as it turns out has no hand.

How can we expect our minds to grow if we keep them under literary quarantine, if we are accustomed to only reading what’s safe, what we’ve liked in the past?

Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting we read books that will screw up our thought lives. I know to steer clear of certain Stephen King novels if I want to sleep through the night nightmare free. I also avoid reading overly saccharine romance novels because it tends to skew my expectations for what a real relationship is like.

But I am suggesting there is great value in branching out—value in Christians reading books written by non-Christian authors.

I’ve read books with swears and affairs. I might not always like what I’m reading, but I can always learn from it.

Here’s a list of what I’m reading:

Falling Home by Karen White
The Liars' Club by Mary Karr
Weird by Craig Groeschel
The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins
(I love the following description from The Outside Boy):
“I thought maybe grief was like an egg that had to be cracked open, and I just hadn’t smashed mine yet—I was still holding it, cradling it. Careful.”

Do you go out on a limb with the books you choose to read? What say you on this topic?

*photo by flickr

**find me on Goodreads
***author Mike Duran wrote several fascinating posts related to this topic. Worth checking out.
****my extra two cents: Discernment isn’t so much about avoiding everything muddy as it is knowing we aren’t impervious to mud. We’re already covered in it. Discernment is knowing the best source to rinse all our thoughts through and understanding when what we’re about to step in isn’t mud at all, but crap.
(check out all those ********)

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...