Monday, April 30, 2012

The Mirage of Expectations

Remember when Bugs Bunny would pant along in some endless desert until suddenly he perked up and grew ecstatic about a body of water in the distance? You knew what was coming. And I knew. Can’t fool us, can you?

That bountiful oasis turned out to be nothing more than a kicked up sandstorm bathed in wretchedly hot rays of sun.
Poor Bugs.

Sometimes I feel like Bugs.

I get my mind (hear expectations) so fixed on something. I pant. I rub my hands in anticipation. I see it, sure as day. Sure as the sun in the sky. Sure as the sweat streaming down my face from all of my hard work. The water cometh.

Until it doesn’t.
Until somewhere along the journey, my mud-caked heels cracking, my throat parched as the coughing earth itself, it hits me. It was an illusion. A mind game. Merely a figment of my imagination.

Just as an actual mirage is a naturally occurring phenomenon, so too are our expectations. It’s natural to instill hope in something. It’s natural to dream. It’s okay to want. Where the sand stings our eyes is when we begin to count on it. When our hope slides down that slippery slope transforming into expectation or entitlement if you will.  Mirages become dangerous when we don’t have the full canteen of water to quench our thirst or the camel to carry us the rest of the miles.

Expectations appear precariously in our minds like mirages.
Yet I’m also inclined to think our expectations can have an upside. They have the ability to serve as excellent motivators. If we reach the place where we swore we saw a pool of water and there is none, we know to keep moving. We adjust our vision and focus on what’s real—what’s in front of us this moment. We have the opportunity to become resourceful and resilient.

Take this gold nugget from Wikipedia:  A mirage is a real optical phenomenon which can be captured on camera, since light rays actually are refracted to form the false image at the observer's location. What the image appears to represent, however, is determined by the interpretive faculties of the human mind.
What’s the takeaway? I believe our expectations, these mirages that rise out of nowhere, can teach us. They communicate volumes to us about what we value, what we were hoping for, and how much energy we’re willing to exert. Our mental mirages give us a glimpse of what very well may be…further down the path.

What is a mirage really? It’s bending light. A foretaste. A reason to continue hoping, but also to keep moving.
It’s only when we prematurely swallow our water supply, confident the light bending before us is about to fulfill our every need that we run into real trouble. We need to keep water on us at all times. We need to be mindful of the tricks our eyes are sensitive to believe. We need to not depend on the mirage to wipe away all of our needs.

I get it, Bugs. I’ve seen the bending light.
And I’m walking on…

Ever been on that desert path and have what you think you see down the path turn out to be a mental mirage of expectations? Have you seen the bending light?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

Friday, April 27, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday--Great Writing is...

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.

Great writing is meant to crush us, entertain and move us, return us to ourselves with some greater understanding of the world and its workings. ~ Betsy Lerner, THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Your turn…

What do you believe great writing should do? Or complete this: Great writing is...

*photos by Stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

8 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Feel like Pulling an Ostrich

There are days when it’s so tempting to hide—to cut myself off from the world and hibernate.
Life keeps coming at me full force with decisions to be made, my girls to guide, and relationships to cultivate. Not to mention a laundry list of other daily tasks (like say, laundry). I’m occasionally sideswiped by an overwhelming desire to shove my head in the sand. Negative circumstances aren’t always to blame for this reaction. It can slam me at any time from any direction. But I’ve found through years of reflection and life experience (like that?) there’s usually something instigating my sudden desire to mimic an ostrich.

Here are 8 questions I ask myself when I’m feeling all too ready to go the way of the ostrich:

Is there someone I need to forgive (or ask forgiveness of)?
Is there something I need to let go of?
Am I getting enough rest? Do I need to take a break or slow down in any one area of my life?
Am I getting enough exercise and am I eating healthy?
Am I being too hard on myself or another?
Is fear holding me back?
Am I avoiding a difficult, but necessary confrontation?
Have I invested enough time in things/people that encourage me and build me up (including time in prayer)?
Do you have a specific set of questions you ask yourself when you’re feeling tempted to tunnel underground?

*photo by stockXCHNG
**After doing a little reading up on ostriches I discovered that, in fact, they do not bury their heads in the sand. If they’re unable to make a run for it, they flop to the ground and remain still. What remains showing blends in with the soil. Hmm, which of course gives me pause. Perhaps I do want to pull an ostrich when I encounter times like those I’ve mentioned above.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sinking my Teeth into My Job (that rarely feels like a job)

There’s the writing.

Then there’s the business side of things.

And I’ve found lately I’m finding creative ways to enjoy—to sink my teeth into both aspects of my chosen field.

First we’ll talk writing:
Thrilled. Thrilled, I say chap chap cheroo (yes, making things up I am). Not only did I spend focused time editing on Saturday, an entirely new cast of characters showed up and crashed my mental party plans. So what did I do? I partied with them. I took notes. Without challenging their arrival, I sat and wrote the first 3K of their story. Who knows where they’ll end up? Published? Maybe, maybe not, but my blood coursed with that feverish excitement that only flows when I’m writing. And I fell in love with the craft all over again. 

Job? This is too much fun to be called work.

Now the business side:
When viewed as connecting, supporting others, promoting solid writing, and reaching out, I dig it. But there’s one key word in that last sentence: Viewed. How we view our jobs will impact every moment we spend in our line of work.

Of course there are days when it all feels difficult. The writing, editing, and platform building remind me of driving through flooded streets. Or constructing the Great Wall of China. But you know who I blame the wah wah feelings on? Me. Myself. And I. We can be a sorry trio. There will always be things out of our control in life, but we control how or even if we choose to move ahead (READ this fantabulous post by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer Unboxed. Side note: I’m more than a little impressed he can get his dog to listen for as long as 5 minutes).

The real gold nugget here is that I refuse to stay stuck in the wah. I trigger change. I invite it. I dive into it, belly flopping when I so feel led. I’m a mover (URL should be a dead giveaway on that). And after years of going strong, I’ve found new ways to sink my teeth into my calling.

And you, what have you sunk your teeth into lately?

*photo by stockXCHNG

Friday, April 20, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday...Forever Young?

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.

I remember the exact moment it hit me that I wouldn’t stay young forever.

As soon as I opened the first birthday card from my parents signed Love, Mom and Dad as opposed to the familiar Love, Mommy and Daddy, I knew.

Do you recall when you realized you wouldn’t stay forever young?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Enjoy Life

“Enjoy life.”

Two words. Instructions given to me by my agent (aka momentary life coach) recently. Easy enough to digest, right? To heed every waking moment…maybe not so much.

I’ve already confessed to you my keen ability to turn thoughts over in my mind with intensity that rivals Uncle Bob’s best cracklin’ producing pig roast. A simple “I like your shirt” can get dissected more than Freddy the frog with his pinned arms and legs splayed out on a 7th grade science table reeking of formaldehyde.

I grasp worries about the future as though they’re a dog I’m running to catch up with on a leash. Conversely, I scoop up reflections of the past as though they’re that same dog’s droppings. Stuck carrying them with me more often than I’d like, for longer than I’d like. My frolicking imagination (active thought life), the leaping and dancing between time, space, and character’s heads for that matter, sets me up for life as a writer. 

However, all this to say I often find it incredibly difficult to remain still. To live in the moment. To slow down. To appreciate the now. To enjoy life.

This has been a lifelong quest—this grounding myself in the here and now, living wholly present and engaged in my current surroundings. Simmering the mental fireworks to listen to gentle noises that are so soft, so much like whispers they could almost not be considered sounds at all.

And my agent knows this about me. This comforts me. She also knows what awaits, the harried schedules I’ll face, the deadline pressures. So she passes along the kindest truth she can think of, rooted in experience, expressed gently, but with some push behind it.

“Enjoy life.”

A blended Yin and Yang, both encouragement and warning.

So you know what I did this weekend? I gave myself permission.

How about you, is it difficult for you to slow down and savor moment to moment? To remember to live in the here and now?

*It’s animal farm here today. Notice my analogies included: a pig, a frog, and a dog?
**photo by flickr

Friday, April 13, 2012

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.

Suddenly acquire the ability to detect everyone’s lies or suddenly acquire the ability to detect everyone’s moods?

*photos by Stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You 8 Wednesday

Normally I 8 Wednesdays (how’s that for whacked out grammar?) but today it’s your turn.

In 8 words I want you to tell me why you’re here (as in here on earth not here at my blog).

Sentence or no sentence, I’m not picky.


*photo by stockXCHNG

Monday, April 9, 2012

In Need of a Good Soak

Yesterday we were invited to a wonderful Easter meal. We had a blast. The food. The company. The conversation. Aces on all counts. When my friend and I moved to the kitchen to clean up some my eyes bulged as soon as I saw the dishes she placed in her dishwasher. Lamb, bits of potatoes (and man, were they yummy potatoes), and pieces of corn clung to the plates. Almost a full pat of butter decorated a knife.

“You can put these in like that?”

“Yep, that dishwasher will clean everything.”

“Wow.” I stood staring. In awe. And with wee bit of jealousy. Then I got to thinking. (Yep, can’t really stop myself.)

I have to practically scratch my dishes from here to kingdom come before I even think of tucking them in for the night in my dishwasher. Scrape until the plate is vulnerable to chipping. (No, this is not a story about dishwasher envy, although it very well could be.)

My brain clicked. (Ideas are like Tinker Toys up there.)

I’m like my dishes.


I’m like my dishes. With my dishwasher.

I’m sinful (no big surprise there, folks). I’ve got all kinds of gunk that corrodes the way I want to live. It hangs off me like half-eaten green beans on my friend’s plates. I can’t just be tossed into a deluxe dishwasher and expect to come out with a Palmolive shine (just pop a check in the mail, Palmolive).

I’m a thinker. I reflect. I turn things over. I mull. I mentally tinker. I take the long road to repentance sometimes. More often than not I need a good soak.

I need to soak in the reminder of grace. In truth. In humility.

There is no get clean quick scheme for me. I’m that caked with crud.

Sometimes it blows my mind that anyone would ever bother.

Washing dishes can be such a tedious job. Your hands get that weird old person bumpy feel, then dry and flaky. Your back aches from bending. And grime gets all over your fingers. And then you have to do it all again after the next meal.

Sometimes it blows my mind that anyone would even bother.

But he did. He does. Over and over and over again.

When is the last time you were awed by something?

*photo by stockXCHNG

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The 8 Most Influential Lessons Motherhood Has Taught Me So Far

Go with the Flow
The moment I begin to grow comfortable with a specific routine, something up and lunges the game plan with the strength of an Olympic discus thrower, therefore teaching me to be more amenable to going with the flow. Might just be on my gravestone someday.

Wendy Paine Miller, the mama who knew how to go with the flow.

Judge Not
At my core I believe most moms truly are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. I keep this in mind when I’m tempted to judge, then I remember all the times I’ve made whopping awful decisions and have jacked up miserably. It does wonders for infusing me with clarity. I need not judge.

Paging Nurse Paine
I’ve spent the last few nights on call. Sleepless. Rubbing a back hunched over the toilet. Changing sheets. Doing laundry. Caring for my daughter. Caring less what I looked like at preschool drop-off the days following. Conclusion: I’d make a mighty fine nurse. Conclusion #2: I greatly respect moms with the burden of tending to terminally ill children or children dealing with chronic pain. Such respect!

Assess What Matters
I’ve tackled this some with you before. Numbers will come and go, rise and fall. Friendships will find seasons. There will be times demanding flight from us, and other times calling for fight. But no matter what, family remains. I choose to pour into my girls now when they still live in my home, while I can still greet them with a smile in the morning and bedtime kiss at night. I embrace what matters. The lives that matter.

Count My One Thousand Gifts
Voskamp is doing something amazing with her book, isn't she? She's prompting people to pay attention again—to slow down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recollected the wisdom in Voskamp’s book while washing dishes, folding laundry (alright, so that doesn’t happen near as much as it should), and while cutting vegetables for dinner. I’m savoring these days because they’ll pass. My children will grow. And I wish to remember them now and give abundantly now.

Sacrifice & Humility
I lost sleep the past few nights. That’s nothing. Try losing pride, losing face, losing your cool, and losing your mind. Pretty sure I manage to do all of those on a daily basis. I’m okay with apologizing to my five-year-old. I like what it teaches me. I like learning from my kids and I hope I’m passing on powerful messages to them as I take on this wild beast called motherhood. Another one for my gravestone:

Wendy Paine Miller—never too old to learn.

Value of Bonding with & Encouraging Other Moms
I adore other moms. My relationships with women in the same diaper changing, naughty step disciplining, breast milk-stained T-shirt wearing boat have been invaluable. I’ll never be able to adequately express my gratitude for what I’ve garnered from other moms on this journey. I’m deeply grateful for the wisdom and even simple encouragement some have given me during times I needed it most.

Let Go
Hardest one, but I’m working on it. Probably can’t write this one on my gravestone yet. But that’s because I’m not dead yet. Life in progress. Motherhood in progress.

What is one of the most influential lessons parenthood has taught you so far? If you’re not a parent, what was a biggie you learned from your folks?

Monday, April 2, 2012

What’s Your Point?

We’re all trying to communicate something. My point (ha!) today is that is pays to figure out what mode or style of communication we use to convey messages to the world. Whether it’s tied to our personalities or methods that have been modeled most often to us, it’s likely we readily engage in a routine form of expression.

Leading me to the big question of the hour…what’s your point?

Known to prefer writing to speaking, the ballpoint believes in the permanence of words—the value of expression on the page.

Point of Honor
Looking out for numero uno, this person tries to come off spit and polished, a Jack or Jill of all trades when it comes to well, just about everything.

According to Webster’s, this breed is “characterized by its assumption of the classic stance…” translating to the one who chooses the safe thing to say, dancing around confrontation to express primarily what others want to hear. Classic.

The interpoint punctuates their every thought, making sure every notion is understood. They pause before moving on.


Point Break
Seen the movie? A laid back, casual form of expression. Surf’s up, Keanu-style.

Point Guard
This individual directs or sets up conversation. They ask a lot of questions and love to experience the brilliant exchange of thoughts and ideas. Slam dunk.

Pinpoint or Knifepoint
What starts as a pin grows to a knife. Words, meant for power and effect, come out of the knifepoint like tiny shards of glass, morphing into pointed daggers. Wounding.

Point of View
The POV communicator is always assessing where others are coming from. Self-reflective, empathetic, and intuitive, this well-read (ha!) person immerses themselves in a deeper understanding of information exchange.

Tease, tease with a little splash of sarcasm.

Match Point
Out to win the conversation, the match point seeks to one-up anyone who’ll humor them by tolerating their 24/7, all topics fair game, competitive nature.

Point of No Return
No filter. Let it all hang out. Diarrhea of the mouth. These terms are all too familiar to the Point of No Return communicator.

“Headlines only.” Only says what’s necessary. Must find solution. Means to AN END!

So…what’s your point?

*Thrilled to be guest posting over at Heather Day Gilbert’s today. Swing by to read about the ABCs of Creating an Engaging Blog
 **photo by stockXCHNG
***sick child at home today. hoping to get around to blogs, but I might be on nurse duty all day...

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...