Sunday, June 8

So, you want to be a writer

I am currently looking for a job (you hiring?  No?  too bad...).  It's an interesting experience.  Technically, I have been offered one position so far, but I had to turn it down.  Because, seriously, I can't move my family a few hundred miles south to a place with little to no housing that happens to also smell like over-cooked beans if you are going to pay me a ridiculously low salary to teach kids all day long...Oh wait, I got off track.

So, I keep applying at various places and hoping for a call.  (Funny story, another school down south in the same town that already offered me a job called me for an interview...goodness.)  Otherwise, so far I've had one email saying basically 'thanks and we'll be in touch when we start interviewing' which was better than the non-response from all the others.  It's gotten me to thinking - maybe, just maybe, I don't really want a job and so I keep putting non-job vibes out into the universe.  And instead of picking up on the oh-gosh-my-family-needs-me-to-have-a-job vibes, the universe is picking up the oh-gosh-I-want-to-write-not-teach vibes.

I do really want to write and be paid for it.  I do, I do.

Problem is, I don't, I don't.  Write, that is.  Not as much as I could or should.  I dabble in it, despite my previous commitments to it otherwise.  I'm proud to say my dabbling was twice published this spring, quite flattering.  But, neither paid.  My dabbling has me to about 28,000 words of a YA fantasy novel I've been working on for nine years (I keep count by Carly's age because I started it just before she arrived).  I've also got another novel in the works.  And another young reader fiction book stewing.  And a picture book that needs illustrating by someone talented.  And an idea for another YA novel.  And another young reader novel.  Some of these have been vetted here.  And some haven't.  (Are you interested in being a reader and giving actual feedback because it would really help me to have some outside perspective?  No?  Moving on...)

Thing is, I'm scared.  Ruled by fear.  What if people don't like what I write?  What if I can't finish the story.  What if no publishers think it's worthwhile to sell?  What if I really just don't have it in me to write something beautiful?  Does it have to be beautiful?  What if I never make it?  Is this all wasted time?  Wasted words?

Anything worth doing is worth risking, perhaps.  I'm trying hard not to be afraid.  And I'm trying hard to sit down and write for more than 10 minutes at a time.  I'm thinking about how to make myself a real office space where I go "work" (because the couch doesn't work for "work").  And, despite all the fear, I'm fairly positively sure that I want to be a writer, and perhaps a teacher on the side.

It's the how of making that happen that's tripping me up.

That, and the fear.

Sunday, May 11

Searching

People move through our lives in often very small and simple ways.  Sometimes we meet for a moment, an hour, a week, a year, a decade.  We make friends, lose friends, remain friends though distance pulls us apart.  We affect others.  That means act upon, cause, change.  The effect is what comes after.  It's the ripples and waves that follow the storm.  Or the warmth that follows the sun rising.  The chill that follows its setting.
Here I am at the end of another semester.  Closing things up, putting things aside that never got done.  This time, I have an unsettled feeling, everything in limbo.  I'm not sure what's next and it's very hard to sit back and wait for the future to come.  Every hour, every moment rolling closer like a train on it's track during a midnight ride.  I cannot see the horizon, only these tracks right in front of me as I push on forward.
And it's scary.
I'm supposed to wait upon the Lord.  I'm sorry for not warning you I might wax religious.  It's difficult for me to separate my every day from the un-explainable right now because right now, I'm in the dark.  I've gotten used to being in the light, to planning every next step carefully - or at least, having some sort of idea of what lies ahead.  I like order, I like predictability, I like routine (to a certain extent).  And everything is in chaos.  All around me, pieces of everyday things are littered like so much confetti - only I'm not celebrating.  Not yet.
I know this doesn't make much sense, and I'm not really sorry for that.  Sometimes life doesn't make much sense.  Death certainly seems to make less.
My husband and I were talking last night about mortality.
"This better all be worth it," he said, meaning life, this thing we're doing.
And I realized, first, that I think it is all worth it.  And second, that mortality has a very high price.  We pay for this thing called life in ways that seem impossible.  In joy, in sorrow, in pain and fear, in passion and principles, in suffering, in confusion, in prayer.  We drop these things like pennies into the bucket of experience, tallying them up until we've created an experience, until we've lived.  And sometimes, that living doesn't seem like enough.  Like maybe it was cut too short.  Like maybe it was just too hard.
But, that's only because we can't see past the now.  There IS more than this, more than these moments, more than these prices we've paid.  We don't stop here, we keep going.  We follow that sun past it's setting and we see it rise again, illuminating that tracks that lead on and on until we are filled with true life, with glorious expectation, with peace.

--

For Jake.

A story unfinished
A book half-filled with white pages
Clean sheets
A sentence part written
left incomplete

A story unfinished
Characters in mid-motion
Sounds left unsaid
Music still playing
Answers un-spoken
silence instead

A story unfinished
The mighty warrior still armed
Hope burning bright
His weapon held high
Battle cry in his throat
victory nigh

And yet, it's not over
There are words to be written
Pages to fill
The warrior fights still.
A story unfinished
playing on

Monday, April 14

In the silent hours

The house is still, though it never seems to be exactly silent.  Always there is a buzz, a sigh, a whirl.  Fans spinning or washing machines, dogs snoring or people turning over.  In the night, we are at our most vulnerable.  And yet, we trust.

In my heart there is a persistence of hope during these silent hours.  It changes from day to day, that thing I hope for.  Some days it is a small hope for better weather or maybe some rain.  Other days, it is a heavy burden holding me down and I just want it to float away.  I turn this way and that, searching searching, I'm not sure what for.  I keep wondering when I'll find it, that thing that makes the pieces come together in the right order.  I often think that, perhaps, that thing is already here and I've just gotten really good at ignoring it.  Whatever IT is.

In these silent hours, mind spinning and thoughts a blur, I let my body slow down into that pattern of just before sleep.  Heavy eyes, beating heart, aching bones.  I look into the darkened rooms and outline their sleeping shapes under blankets.  Sweet faces mellowed by the dreams they're having.  Carly likes to turn over, talking all the way in half-made sentences.  Tonight it was something about money, I think.  Josh likes to bend himself into impossible angles, head and feet out of whack.  The silent dark surrounds them, buries them, cradles them.  And through it, they trust.

A funny thing, this sleeping silent world.  I am at once grateful and annoyed.  I search for order and perfection, finding very little and also very much.  A paradox.  I'm just beginning to know this friend/enemy called paradox.  It's hard to live with.  Some slow, silent nights I am almost eaten alive by it.  By the waiting and the wishing and the wanting, all unsatisfied.  I am troubled by it, finding my faith on shaky ground, finding my hope eroded away.  In the midnight hour, I look this paradox in the face and find more questions there.  And still, I trust.

Tuesday, April 8

On turning 37

Dear me,

I'd like to say a few words about what this day means.  This day of birth wherein I (you?) entered the world some thirty seven years ago, asleep.  Yes, asleep.  And still trying to catch up where I left off when so rudely interrupted by a smack on the behind.

I'd like to say there is some magic formula or perfect sentence that sums up what it means to advance another year older and wiser, but if anything I've learned that most days (including birthdays) go on basically like the ones before.  Sure, there are the frilly types of days mixed in: celebrations, births, surprises, and the like.  But, really it all mixes together into memory-soup and it's hard to separate the strands.

The year of thirty-six was spent largely learning to become a teacher.  Interestingly enough, I learned that I already pretty much am one (a teacher) and that there is a lot more fuss and bother than actual teaching on some days.  (Freshman - need I say more? (Okay, maybe I do - freshman are like tiny little humans who haven't grown into their heads yet (both figuratively and physically.))).  I've learned some things about myself in the process of learning to teach.  Mainly, I am more patient with other people's kids.  Fascinating and alarming, to be sure.  I've tried to bring this patience home with me, but there are days when I just can't/won't/can't.  I've also learned that I don't much like the nuts and bolts of paperwork, planning (planning, planning), getting kids to be-quiet-already-I-don't-know-how-to-make-you-shut-up, and starting over tomorrow.  I keep reminding myself that teaching secondary school is only meant to be a step up and out into post-secondary school.  I find myself wondering if I have the stamina.  I also find myself wondering why I don't just get to it and write something.  Do you know the answer?

This year of thirty-six also involved watching my (your?) children grow with alarming rate.  That day your son officially gets taller than you (and then keeps going so that you have to look up to make eye contact) - it's a little disturbing.  But also, exhilarating.  As in, "I did that" or "he made it this far despite my doing that!"  If that makes sense.  And your girl, your lovely crazy curious girl, well she's not a baby anymore.  How did that happen?  When I look at her, I feel inadequate.  Will that ever go away?  Just today she was asking me about the colors of her skin ("Why are my hands a different color on the bottom side?") and about an ant that was carrying a paper clip.  A paper clip!?  In my head, I just had a metaphorical moment wherein she is the ant carrying the paper clip...but, that's another story for another day.

Some notes to self in closing (lest I run off the tracks and never find a conclusion to write):

- First, be kind.  To others, to your family, to yourself.
- Second, stop and take in the moment.  Things are blurry because you haven't put them in focus.
- Third, you can do hard things.  Look how far you've come!
- Last, there will always be things you want to change, but can't.  Be happy with what you have, even when what you have feels like it's not enough.  You can be happy anywhere - if you choose it.

Happy birthday!

Love,

Me

Saturday, February 22

Testimony, in pieces

The vast blue sky
And golden rays
Turtle dove songs outside my window
The smell of freshly washed hair
My daughter's soft skin
Brown eyes

A roof that hasn't leaked
A painted picture of the sea
The taste of beans and chile
Clanging heater vents, alive with warm air
Rosy, heart-shaped lips
Chocolate

The ocean pulsing on the sand
White snow laid freshly down
Skeleton arms of trees
Dogs barking over the cat's meow
A quilt made of favorite shirts
And dreams.


Thursday, January 9

Remembering

For George

I see him in the trees
Tall and strong, gangly limbs that try to touch the sky
“Be strong,” they say
“Stand tall,” they tell me
“Reach.”

I see him in the river
Always moving, changing fast, full of stories
“Keep going,” it rumbles
“Cut new paths,” it beckons
“Search.”

I see him in the birds
The cunning hawk, the splendid eagle, the curious sparrow
“Fly farther,” they call
“Hunt far and wide,” they sing
“Soar.”

I see him in adobe
In the gentle carvings of a rough, strong hand
In quiet rooms of light
In many windows facing east
To sunrise.



Tuesday, January 7

There's a lot of money to be made for a romance writer...

There once was a pirate named Steve. He was quite nice, as pirates go, and liked to run (or shall I say, hop) all about town shouting out things like:
"Arr! There be me favorite silver spoon!"
and
"Arrggh!  I've lost me contact lens!"

I didn't say he was a good pirate.

Anyhow, one day Steve was out and about, hopping here and there, when suddenly his patch fell off.  His eye - where else would he have a patch?  The onlookers were shocked to see that Steve had a wooden eye behind that patch.  It was rolling around in the socket, slivers of wood blinking like splintery eyelashes as he fumbled for his lost patch.  One of the shocked onlookers took pity on poor pirate Steve and picked up the patch with two skinny fingers.  Her name was Delly - the helpful onlooker, not the patch.
"I've found your patch," she said, helpfully, dangling the patch in front of Steve's good, non-splintery eye.
"Me patch?!" said Steve, reaching for it.  But, he missed because he didn't have very good depth perception.
"Your patch," she affirmed, grabbing him by the wrist and putting the patch in his palm.
"Aww, you're a sweet wee lass," he said with a grin even though Delly was anything but wee.  In fact, she was quite large with a billowing pink skirt and a yellow scarf over her shoulders.  She kind of hurt to look at, truth be told, with her bright clashing colors, four missing teeth, and razor sharp curls standing up straight.
She blushed all over at pirate Steve's words, which made it difficult to tell where her skin gave off and her skirt began.
Steve blushed too as he pushed his patch into place.  The onlookers moved hastily on, averting their eyes from his now-crooked patch and Delly's bright face.  But, Steve and Delly - they didn't move on, they moved in.
And that, my loves, is a pirate romance.

Friday, January 3

Resolving

I, along with much of the world, have been thinking about my goals for the coming year.  I made a list and it was pretty broad, but also pretty do-able.  On purpose.  The one thing that bothers me when these resolutions roll around is just how full of failure they are, often by implication or by comparison to the list from last year.  We (general society we) often laugh because we only made it a few hours, days, weeks, months into our resolutions.  And then we fall back into old habits.  We (that general we again) forget just how hard it is to change ourselves.  Have you ever tried to reshape a rock?  That's us, right there, rocks.  Round and hard and set in stone.  But, changeable over time.

This year I made my list AFTER I thought about my successes from last year.  I did not bother recounting my failures, though there were assuredly many.  Instead, I looked back (as objectively as I could) and decided it really wasn't so bad after all.  I graduated from college (a long time, hard fought goal); I yelled a little less and gained a new appreciation for what soft words can do; I am 15 pounds lighter than I was in January 2013 (a small success, but I choose to see it as one rather than bothering to calculate how much I didn't lose); I've written more and submitted more for publication; I've visited some places I've never seen.  All in all, not a bad year.  Sure there are things that did not get accomplished, but I barely remember them.  As my dad likes to say, "Are you better off than you were five years ago?"  Yes, in most ways I am.  In enough ways.

Enough.  That's a funny word.  One I've written about before.  That's probably what my resolutions for this year center on - being enough.  I've resolved (again) to yell less and speak more softly.  I've resolved (again) to shrink my debt and my waist.  I've resolved (again) to do well in school and try my best.  I've resolved (again) to take more risks/chances/opportunities.  That's a hard one for me.  But, I've also resolved to look for ways to fall in love with my husband over again.  To give myself a break when I can't get everything done.  To say nicer things about the mother of my children.  To give others the benefit of the doubt more often than not.  To accept compliments more gracefully.  These are all resolutions I can keep if I want to.  I might not do them perfectly or even every day, but at the end of the year I hope I can look back and see success again.  I hope I can see that I've done enough to move forward, even a little bit.

Happy reNew Year!

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