Saturday, December 31, 2005
This is a first here at Slices of Life--a guest. Or, I should say, two guests. Marilynn Griffith's book Made of Honor, released on December 27th. I've also asked Dana Rose, Mary's heroine from Made of Honor, to join us. Welcome, ladies!
MG: Hey Lynette! Dana and I are honored to be here. Hopefully we won’t bump heads too much.
DR: I hope not, girl. You’ve already bumped my head enough telling my story.
MG: Shhh. We’re guests here.
First, a question for Mary. I'd like to hear about your slogan on the cover… "life, faith, and getting it right." When did you discover this would be your focus?
MG: That’s Steeple Hill’s slogan actually. I love life, have faith, but seldom get it right. God does though.
Your book is filled with scents that bring many delightful, delicious moments. Does this come naturally in your writing? Where did the scents come from (besides the obvious fact that Dana is a scent diva)?
MG: I had asthma as a child so I couldn’t really sniff things like I wanted to. (I still can’t really). When I got married and started trying to be crafty and domestic (only the crafty part worked out) I started making soap and bath and body products. I could sniff all I wanted and it was big fun. Though the products were marked, I always had to explain the smell to people, so I guess some of it came from that.
Made of Honor is chock-full of laugh-out-loud moments, like Dana trying to stuff herself into size B nylons and avoid the horror of having naked legs at church. But I also found some Dana-isms in the book, little nuggets of wisdom that jumped out at me. Dana, I'd like to ask you about some of these moments. I hope you can share without telling too much of your story.
DR: (Looking down to check her legs) Well, I’m wearing off black queen hose today so I think I can handle your questions. I can look back now and laugh but those pantyhose were just torture.
"We were all a little crazy. Isn't anyone worth knowing?"
Dana, would you say that you and your sistahs and family put the "fun" in dysfunctional?
DR: We definitely do. Rochelle, Tracey and I all have our own brand of crazy, but we manage to stay friends somehow. I’ve finally accepted that normal only exists in fiction. (Not Marilynn’s of course)
MG: (shaking head) Dane, didn’t I tell you to hush? LOL
Back to you, Mary. Which character was the most fun to write? Who showed up first in this wild 'n crazy family?
MG: Dana came first actually, along with her mooching cousins and aunt. It was just a scene basically. Then came Rochelle and Tracey. Dana’s Messianic Jewish friend Austin and her nephew’s girlfriend Shemika came out of nowhere. Dana’s father and Adrian were both a joy to write as well.
Here's another Dana quote: "I tried not to be offended by his surprise, remembering what a pistol I'd been growing up. Judging from the way I was acting today, I still had a few bullets left in me. "
One of the delightful things about you, Dana, is that you're real. What would you suggest to someone who's wrestling between the urge to pour out grace or fire bullets?
DR: Go for the grace. Bullets mean blood (usually Christ’s to cover the wound) and leave behind a mess. There’ll be all that crying and praying either way, so why not cut to the chase and get the forgiving over with? That’s what I ask myself at any rate. I’m trying to do better about it.
"Maybe when these couples smelled my stuff, they'd catch a whiff of the smell that had filled my imagination growing up when tempers grew hot and patience grew thin. A scent that said to my mind, 'God is here… and He's got flowers.'" Could you comment about this? It's a beautiful thought that expresses Dana's passion.
MG: Dana doesn’t think she wants to be married, but she respects and wants people to be happy. Though her mother is dead, she tries to give to people the gifts she wanted to give her parents. Something sweet, something sacred.
"Today, I realized that no matter how close people are to one another, there's always a place--a secret place--that only God can see."
We have the ability to alternately wound and bless those we love, depending on what's inside us. Dana, how did you discover what was inside you?
DR: I’m still learning what’s inside me. Some of it is amazing and some isn’t so pretty. Often it takes me being wounded to recognize my own hurtful words or actions. Just as I open my mouth to say something, I hear a whisper in my heart saying,”It’s not so nice, is it?”
"I didn't know what to think of Trevor's presence. How could someone act such a fool and traipse up in church the next morning with a Bible and a smile?"
Okay, this is a heavy question for a chick-lit, but Dana, you went there and I'm there too. How do people do this, especially in the church?
DR: Oh, Lynette, now you realllllly read that book, didn’t you? I have no clue how folks live two lives. I guess I’ve lost my phony skills because I can’t pull it off. If I’m not right, I’m likely to let you know. People know better to ask “How are you this morning?” if they really don’t want an answer.
"I'd loved him all my life, but how could I consider being in love with him, devoting my emotion to someone else when I wasn't sure how to love myself? "
I loved Dana's frank honesty with herself. Loving yourself when you're supposed to be selfless. Mary, how does a girl do that?
MG: Whoa, Lynette, you’re pulling out the big guns! LOL It’s a hard thing. Christians are taught to die to self. Some of us take that a little farther and just…DIE. I know I did for a while. There has to be a balance between loving God and allowing God to love us. Love your neighbor as yourself is in the Bible too. Sometimes we forget that and aren’t able to love anybody.
"I'd forgiven Dahlia--again--that day at the shower, but somehow her wrong had grown wings from the altar where I'd left it and dropped disease all over my spirit."
"Getting it right" is a process. Thanks for the reminder!
DR: It’s a process indeed. In the movies, people hug and everything is all right, but in real life, sometimes things go up and down and around as the healing continues, even in the church. All scars itch sometimes.
Mary, thank you for dropping by. I hope this little visit with you and Dana will prompt readers to drop by their local bookstore or favorite shopping web site and order Made of Honor. Buy two. One for you, one for a girlfriend. This book is some serious fun. Check out Marilynn Griffith's web site at www.marilynngriffith.com.
MG: Lynette, thank you so much for having us and for reading Made of Honor. This interview was some serious fun!
DR: I’ll say. You really brought back the memories for me. Those days were something else! Blessings to you and all your girlfriends!
Thursday, December 29, 2005
5,920 / 18,000
5,920 / 20,000
Either way, so far so good. My heroine Josee is now reluctantly wed to her hero, Edouard. Well, he's not really her hero yet since she wasn't too cracked up on marrying him. But what's an orphan without a dowry to do in 1819 Louisiana? Josee thinks he's dark, mysterious and brooding. The poor guy's been through a lot, so I don't blame him. Here's hoping she'll get him to lighten up a little.
Friday, December 23, 2005
I've been shopping this week for our big "Fezziwig's Bash" on Christmas Eve after the candlelight service, when CJ and I invite about 50 of our closest friends (!) over for an open house filled with goodies. After umpteen years, actually about 7 or 8, we've gotten the menu down to a science. Tonight, I prepared to start baking and saucing and dipping and marinating and meatballing and cupcaking. Riiiight.
I didn't buy cupcake liners. Scratch making the mini cherry cheesecakes tonight. And the cream cheese surprise cupcakes. I just knew we had those little papers, but nope.
I didn't buy stick margarine, either, to make the pecan sandy balls, nor the peanut butter balls. Couldn't do those tonight. I know I stood there in front of the margarine display and looked at the packages of Bluebonnet Light, but I guess they didn't make it into my cart.
Tonight I figured I could at least do some almond bark covered pretzels. The first batch is now hardening on the wax paper. Then...um...something happened to my almond bark on the double boiler. It turned into the consistency of cake frosting, not the gooey liquid that I can dip the pretzels in. I ended up pitching the lump, along with a few pretzels, into the trash.
So...back to the store tomorrow I go. My choice. We were going anyway.
How we celebrate is all about choices. I love traditions. But I don't love the expectations that come with them sometimes. We can expect situations, recipes, and people to behave in certain ways. When they don't, well, at the very least it involves extra trips to crowded stores or at the worst, hurt feelings and disappointment.
I know several things for certain.
I know I'm blessed.
I know my kids will love what we bought them.
I know our family will eat well.
I know what Christmas means.
As far as how the extended family will behave, um, I don't know. But I won't pin my Christmas expectations on people who might not perform how I think they should.
I could hope that:
My sister-in-law won't have her freeloading friend come with five children.
My mother-in-law won't talk all the way through a movie, and then keep asking questions about what's going on.
My estranged brother-in-law and his wife won't try to cause a ruckus or make racial comments about my niece and nephews (part Hispanic).
My father-in-law won't open beer around said estranged alcoholic brother-in-law.
My other prodigal brother-in-law won't bring his ex-girlfriend (who he says he's still in love with even though she ran off with a friend of theirs and cleaned out their apartment).
Oh, I should just say family sometimes puts the "fun" in dysfunctional. All I can do is pray, grace, Lord, grace.
Whatever you do, enjoy it, go with the flow, and don't pin your hopes on doing Christmas right. Just remember why you're doing it.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Last night CJ wrangled the 4-foot high plastic Nativity scene figures from the shed and got them set up in the front yard. Yes, Christ is still in Christmas, even in our front yard.
So where do Jesus, Mary & Joseph end up? On our wooden yard swing. The wise men, shepherd, sheep, donkey, and camel are all clustered on the ground facing the swing.
I asked CJ if he was going to put the spotlight in front of the display.
"No, I'm hanging twinkle snowflake lights all over the top of the swing."
The lights aren't quite as bright as the Vegas strip, but they're twinkling for sure. You can't miss 'em. I went outside and couldn't help but crack up at the sight of the flashing lights over the nativity scene.
"What's so funny? It's supposed to be the starlit night when Jesus was born."
And so The Electric Manger glows in our yard.
Remember to shine, even if it's with twinkling snowflake lights.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I'm supposed to tell 15 things about myself that are book-related.
1. I had a pre-birth exposure to books. Mom read to me. She also named me after a librarian she worked with at Mount Holyoke College. It figures.
2. When I was in fourth grade, Nancy Drew was my hero. So my original story and movie, The Mystery of the Uranium Cave won first place in the Worcester County Schools Film Festival. Look out, George Lucas!
3. I have never bothered to count how many books I own.
4. The best ending to a book that I've ever read is the final paragraph of The Last Battle of The Chronicles of Narnia. It still brings tears to my eyes. I don't think I've ever read a series ending like it. Simple language; deep emotion.
5. I didn't get in trouble in school for talking. I got in trouble for reading a book propped on the inside edge of my desk.
6. Favorite books growing up: The Narnia books; The Little House books; just about anything by Lucy Maude Montgomery; just about anything by Madeleine L'Engle; The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper; Little Women; Nancy Drew mysteries; Pounding Hooves by Dorothy Grunbock Johnston.
7. Back to my name again. I used to dislike my first name. When I was about nine or ten, I remember lamenting, "Why couldn't you have named me Sandra, Mom?!" You can hardly ever find a "Lynette" personalization. I didn't mind so much when I found out my name came from the Arthurian legend of Sir Garreth and Lynette. Okay, so it's not a book, but it's a story.
8. I read nonfiction either for book research or self-help, which is not often. Oooh, I sound like a selfish reader. :)
9. The more I write, the more I need to make time to read. So many books; so little time!
10. I have an ongoing book swap with my best friend Lisa. My "to be read" pile never goes down. And neither does hers. She also likes getting autographed copies that I buy from my fellow authors.
11. Some husbands groan about how many pairs of shoes their wives bring home. Mine groans about how many books I bring home (and shoes, too).
12. I wish I could write as adventurous as Michael Crichton, as everyday-creepy as Stephen King, as shivery-creepy as Brandilyn Collins, as prolific as Danielle Steele, as humorous as Kristin Billerbeck, as vividly as Colleen Coble, as heartfelt as Terri Blackstock, as imaginative as Angela Hunt; with the simple depth of C.S. Lewis. And still be me, whatever that is.
13. Books are no substitute for people. I must always remember this. I can stick my nose in a book and let the world go by--which is okay sometimes.
14. I have only read one book by Francine Rivers. This is probably much to the dismay of some of my friends who are big fans. Of Francine, that is. :)
15. I have read all The Cat Who... books by Lilian Jackson Braun.
So, if you've made it to the end, thanks for reading. And hey, stop by my friend Camy Tang's blog, Camy's Loft. Because, Camy--tag, you're it! Merry Christmas!
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Okay, I've got to say it. Amazon, CBD, and WalMart all have Windswept Weddings listed for June 2006 release. And... you can get a sneak peek at the cover here. The cover is super--the veil is just what I imagined. Eventually galleys will come my way and there'll be probably minor edits. Then the fun starts! Marketing. I'll be learning that as I go.
Seeing the cover made my night. Lately my work in progress has been a trial in just plowing through the story. One day I hope it'll get easier. I read the first chapter of a suspense author's latest novel, an author I admire, and I went, "Wow, her work just flows." One day too, I hope I'll get that kind of flow in my own work.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
The book is doing better. I'm trying to be patient and just write it, and let the process work, and trust that all the studying I've done will pay off when I have serious butt-to-chair time.
My next novella isn't due on the editor's desk until January 31st, so I'm okay where that stands. I finally feel like I have a workable writing plan. (And yes, of course, I think--"Wow!! This time next year I'll have THREE books out!")
We have a five gallon bucket in the kitchen. It brims with pecans. The bucket, not the kitchen. The ancient tree in the back yard has had a bumper crop this year, so yes, sir!--yes, ma'am!--we're having pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Oh, and yes, yours truly sits for a bit in the evenings and cracks the shells. I've filled about two-thirds of a gallon ziplock bag so far. Yum!! We might not have Texas black gold on our property, but we have almost the next best thing.
This year, as always, I am thankful for much.
Madame Blueberry has it right: "A thankful heart is a happy heart."
Monday, October 31, 2005
"Religion is a guy in church thinking about fishing. Spirituality is a guy out fishing thinking about God." That's what it means to me. (Not the fishing part, I haven't done that in years.) Religion means being stuck somewhere when you'd rather be somewhere else. What holds your heart isn't religion. Religion is the law without having a relationship of worship. At best, worship is a chore. But spiritual worship can take place anywhere, at anytime. So what if the trees don't have a band. They wave their branches an rustle in the wind and live out Psalm 150. I believe we can live our lives as an act of worship.
At church we've been studying the book of John. I've read it before quite a few times. When I was much younger and went to a private school, we even memorized chunks of chapters 14 through 17. But when you really get into John's portrayal of Jesus, you'll see what a radical He was. (And is.)
On the writing front, I'm still working on my book quandary. The trouble is, I love research. I get so excited about a new idea I'd like to flesh out, that it's easy to spend time. Writing is hard work, place-your-butt-in-the-chair work.
I'm tired. Reading some new books, organizing my schedule for the next few months. They're going to be busy. Time to head off to dreamland!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
This suspense story has undergone so many metamorphoses, and now I'm not sure if it's turning into anything better than it was before. Every time I hear someone's input, I feel I need to slice up the whole thing. Now, I think I'm afraid to write. What's happened to me?
This week on the ACFW loop we've been talking about rejections, and how it's important to keep submitting. It dawned on me not long ago that I haven't submitted anything new since the novella that sold this spring, and now I've only got one proposal sitting on an editor's desk. I think I need to get busy. I tell myself a hundred times that if I don't submit, I won't hear back. Is it being afraid of rejection?
I don't think so. I'm afraid of not getting it right once again. I've been told I need to knock it out of the park with my writing, yet somehow I'm not sure exactly how to do that.
I've been digging deeper into my heroine, and my hero. She's been easier to delve into--not easy, but easier than the hero. I see more changes on the horizon.
In short though, I need to just get it written.
I'll do some of that tonight. If I can keep my blog going all year, surely I can get this book proposal into shape and in the mail!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
thick enough to eat with a spoon
I hear their joy of belonging
and wish that I could bask in the warmth
I want to say
Don't be nice to me because you're a Christian and you have to
Be my friend because you want to.
Alone in the crowd
Still I wait.
Monday, October 10, 2005
A nice cup o' hot chocolate (marshmallows optional)
Tonight, we decorated the Christmas tree. Yep, you heard right! I made hot chocolate, and we put on the Christmas music. It's a tad chilly tonight, damp and cloudy--perfect fall weather in Texas. This year we flipped for a good artificial tree, a gorgeous Noble fir eight feet tall. I'm tired of sweeping up pine needles and having the cats knock over a real tree like they did one year (don't ask--I lost some pretty ornaments in that two a.m. fiasco). If only this smelled like a real tree. But it looks real.
Cars have driven past our house since October first. Drivers sometimes hit the brakes, honk, or pass a little more slowly. Some men drink, some run around, some smoke like chimneys, some spend all their money on hobbies that don't include their families. My man? He's Kris Kringle's nephew and he can't pass up decorations and lights. If the original Saint Nicholas really had a long-lost relative, that would be C.J.
Last year, we didn't really get to decorate until the second week of December because of our living room renovations. (Poor C.J.) So, like the good wife I am, I promised he could start decorating the house in October.
The kids of course helped. I reminded Zach, who remarked he'd rather be in his room reading, that in a few years he'll be at college and we'll do this without him. Where did the little sprites go with blonde hair and sparkling eyes? Now they can look me right in the eye, and don't say I told you, but I think they're already a little taller than me.
Christmas just can't last long enough.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
I saw synergy in action this weekend. On Saturday, October 1st, C.J. and I went with our buddies John and Lisa to roast in the sun at Kyle Field and see Texas A&M beat the Baylor Bears--in overtime! What an experience. We were in the semi-nosebleed seats. All we could see throughout the stands was maroon-and-white (with the rare Baylor green and orange). I won't get into the Baylor-A&M rivalry, which is nothing when compared to the Aggie War Hymn bellowing the merits of beating UT--saw Varsity's horns off--short!
The Aggie culture possesses a ton of traditions, handed down from student to student throughout the years. One of the unique things about Aggie is that no matter where you meet one in the world, you'll find they know and understand the traditions. It's an instant kinship I haven't seen in any other group. Well, maybe one group. I'll get to that later.
Take a look at the picture above--thousands of cheering students, on their feet for over three hours in the blazing Texas sun. From the photo you can't pick out anyone's age, economic status, upbringing, or race. All you can see is--they're Aggies, and they're working together to win. Down on the field, the players recognized the power of the "12th man," better known as the Aggie fans. The players would turn to the crowd and raise both arms as if summoning the cheer. In response, tens of thousands of voices would unite in a roar so loud you couldn't hear the person next to you. When the Aggies won--I thought the shout would shake the stands.
In our Sunday morning Bible fellowship we've been studying the writings of John. This has stood out to me:
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind--
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as we are--
I in them and you in me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you've sent me and loved them
In the same way you've loved me.
That's the synergy God wants for us. For many years, in many ways, the Church has failed to show that oneness and unity. We meet a Christian in another part of the world, another country, another church, and when we see them, it should be like having an instant connection. Hey, you love Him, too, huh? Maybe we don't have the same traditions or sing the same songs. But we have the same foundation. I'm praying that John 17 prayer. We could use more synergy in the Church. We sure can't get the job done on our own!
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
My words to my son echo in my ears. So many times in the past, Zach has slipped under the radar because he hasn't spoken up in school. I haven't either. Not in school, but I've reached a point in my writing where something's got to give. I know quite a few authors through the writers' group where I'm a member. Do I ever ask for help? Usually it's like this:
"They'll say no."
"They're too busy."
"They're already helping people."
How do I know any of this? I don't.
Learning to ask for help is sometimes difficult for us independent types. We want to do it ourselves. Maybe we don't think enough of ourselves to believe anyone would help us. Or like Zach, do we think people "should know" we need help? I don't mean asking someone for help you've never met before and have no professional relationship. I mean, a writer asking a fellow writer for a hand.
I say these things because I know I'm not the only one who faces these dilemmas. Not wanting a critique or a line edit, but wanting some input and direction, and perhaps some correction, as painful at that may be.
"Ask, seek, knock" doesn't mean we're desperate. But then again, it doesn't mean sitting around waiting for someone to notice we could use some answers.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I also found out how much I still have to learn. I repented of squandering my time. I came off my high horse, realizing I have a long way to go to being a more excellent author. I liken it to rock climbing, something I'd love to do once I lose 100 pounds and get into shape (but that's another story). You can only go up one handhold or foothold at a time. Sometimes you hit plateaus and look around thinking, "Wow, how far I've come." But then tilt your head back a bit and see how much rock face there is left to climb. I'm climbing!!
I left the conference with a request for a manuscript and a proposal from two agents, and an editor requested a proposal of the same book. PLUS--drumroll!--my long-neglected novel, Star's Daughter, won first place in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category of the Noble Theme contest. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't hear. I didn't know I had so many supporters--thanks, everyone! I too cheered and screamed for other friends who won or placed in different categories. I loved seeing my author friends Linda Wichman and Chris Lynxwiler win in their categories for Book of the Year. I remember their stories before publication, and it sure was exciting to see how far they've come.
So I'm checking Star's Daughter over once again before sending a query to a publisher looking for fantasy stories.
But back to the New Year's thing. I have a whole year between now and the next conference to get ready. So what am I going to do? Work and write like it's a New Year's resolution. I'm ready to go!
So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Time to get my word count in for the night.
Monday, September 12, 2005
I finished my edits on Heart's Refuge and it was e-mailed to the editor on Friday, along with the other stories in our anthology. I loved working on this story. It was fun to write towards a goal and know that this book is a done deal. Yet even as I clicked the "send" button on the e-mail sending HR to Rachel, I got a tad queasy.
What if it's not as good as they expected? What if the copy editor makes a ton of changes? What if? What if? What if someone hates it? What if it offends someone? (I can't think how.) But then I'm feeling self-conscious again. The old case of nerves and self-consciousness reveals again how it's so easy to slip into selfishness, as if the story is a reflection of me. It's not. People think of us far less than we realize most of the time. I don't want to be self-conscious.
As I get ready to leave Wednesday afternoon, I want to keep this in mind. The more self-conscious I am, the more I'm in the driver's seat, the more I calculate every word, every gesture--the more I think I'm in the spotlight, the worse it gets. So let's repeat this together, "It's not about me." (And thanks to Rachel for the reminder!)
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Frustration can give way to rage that seeks to pin blame on anything and anyone that makes a convenient target. The he-said, she-said, they-did, they-didn't can go on and on forever. Those of us who aren't in the know except by what the media feeds us can't go on rumors and excerpts from broadcasts "someone saw." We let our experience and beliefs color our opinions of what we see.
For example, I know someone who doesn't understand why "all those people" didn't just leave New Orleans. He thinks, "they stayed so they could loot."
I told him (after I resisted the urge to share a piece of my mind with him not so subtly), "Not everyone has a reliable vehicle they can just fill up with gas and drive. Some people--the poor, the elderly, the handicapped--they have no one to help them. They had no way out." So of course they didn't leave. Where? How? Poverty has shown how it limits people. I relate to Paul's words: "I've had little. I've had a lot. I've learned to be content." And I've never forgotten the days when I didn't have a steady reliable paycheck. During times like that, I did what I could. So did they.
So now, waves of evacuees have reached my area. We're going to help out however we can. Please, again, help in your local area. One person can't do everything, but we can all do something.
I e-mailed some fellow authors for help when I had a brainstorm. I thought of a way to find hope and comfort in a tangible way for some refugees, especially the ones in the mass shelters around Texas. Hair care. No matter what her race, a woman likes to do her hair. Girls like to play "hair do." I asked what kind of styling products African-American women would need and appreciate. (It's been a long time since Sheila Lee was my roommate in college back in '86.) Here is what author Mary Griffith shared with me:
"Large tooth combs, rubber bands (Wal mart hare care .99 for about 500) or hair elastics (Goody or other), barrettes for the little girls, hair grease (coconut grease is about 2.00 for a big jar, there are smaller jars for about .96), shampoo (Motions, Cream of Nature or other AA line, again on Wal Mart black hair care aisle), conditioner (anything cholesterol from Queen Helene, Motions or other, again Wal Mart), Magic Shave for the men's razor bumps, relaxer kits (precise, soft and beautiful, African pride are all 5.00 and under at wal mart), lotion for skin (.99 Jergens is fine), afro picks, headscarves (in black hair section of walmart for 2.00)
Any of the above would be greatly appreciated. People will definitely want to do their little girl's hair which can be done with grease, rubber bands or hair elastics, barrettes and possible "knockers", those big balls on elastic bands that you twine around ponytails. You can find these things reasonably at Wal Mart, but if there is an Oriental beauty supply in your area, you may want to compare there as the barrettes and knockers may be cheaper there, but Wal Mart is very comparable."
So besides diapers and lotion and stuffed animals, I'm going to get a bunch of products so some of the ladies can feel a little bit "done" again. They may not have a permanent home, but they'll have a little dignity. And maybe that will foster a little hope. I pray so. We need hope for the long road ahead.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations,
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God
has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
This week I've been reminded at how precarious life is. I complain about the smallest things sometimes. I think now I'm going to keep quiet and count my blessings even more. I've heard some people saying about New Orleans, "All that sin got washed into the Gulf," and it sickens me. They act as if it's a good thing. These are people who call themselves Christians, i.e., followers of Christ. I read in my Bible that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and that whoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life. That God didn't send His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through His Son. I recall Zacchaeus, the tax collector and sinner who snuck a peek at Jesus when He came to town. And Jesus ended up inviting Himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner--not banishing his sinner's house to the sea. Zacchaeus then realized he needed a change, and that Jesus could give him the change he wanted. Wow, and Zacchaeus ended up paying back with interest everything he'd swindled in his tax dealings (I think he was a card-carrying member of The Sinners' Club). The people Jesus really got cranky with were the religious ones who looked down on others and imposed legalism without changed hearts. While there are sinners in New Orleans, let's not forget the whole world is full of them. I'm a sinner who's found a way out because of Jesus' love, not His condemnation. I don't care if the ones suffering are sinners or blameless, because they deserve our compassion. Jesus would do no less.
CoffeeCup, the web site software company down in Corpus Christi, is soliciting donations that they're planning to truck up to the Astrodome. We're getting some boxes together to send down to them soon. If you want to get involved, check this out:
CoffeeCup Hurricane Relief
If you would rather give money, contribute to
The American Red Cross
Another way to give, especially if you live in the Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi areas: Call your local school district and find out if there are any evacuees in your school district. These children are enrolling in school and have nothing right now. You can make a difference by donating clothes, school supplies, and other essentials while these families take refuge.
Lord, thanks for your blessings. Thanks for your mercy and grace, fresh and new every morning. Let us look to meet the needs around us. We may not be able to do everything, but we can all do something. Give wisdom to the relief workers and those in charge, bring order to chaos, peace to disorder, love from hate, hope from despair. Let your Spirit hover over the waters and make yourself known in this dark time.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
A Big Pot O' Goulash
First, I should say I don't like goulash. Life has been a pot o' goulash lately. Oh, I like life very much. It's just the mix that's getting on my nerves.
Nick Arrojo, where ARE you?? What was I thinking, going to a new stylist and getting a brand new do? I need you. I need your $200 haircut. Whisk me away to "What Not To Wear" and work your magic. (I'll even pay.) I feel like a shorn sheep with a puffy face. Hannah screamed Friday when I picked her up after volleyball practice. "Omigosh!"
"What?" I looked around.
I wanted to start crying again. The girl who cut Hannah's hair did an amazing job, so I picked up her card. Then this week I went in and had her cut mine. I guess she had a good day when she did Hannah's hair. OH, mine looks perky and I can get it to flip, but it won't stay that way. Forget the publicity photo shoot in Nashville at the writers' conference. By Christmas some of it should be grown out again. But now...I hate looking in the mirror, and I realize how vain I really am. For a "big" girl. (gulp)
Which brings me to another thing. CJ and I are starting Body for Life again on Monday. I'm so tired of looking big on the outside and feeling smaller inside. I haven't seen anyone treat me differently for being about a hundred pounds overweight, but maybe God's kept me blind to that. Society should know that fat people don't sit around eating donuts all the time, nor or they lazy or want to dress like old fuddy-duddies. I eat (relatively) healthy. I've worked a desk job for the past almost 10 years, and I can tell. I need to get moving. Eat smaller meals. Work my muscles. All of which Body For Life does. So maybe it's not the hair. It's my face. With longer hair, I didn't notice my "pooch" face as much. Now, well. I'm pushing 38 and working against gravity, too.
In about a month I'll be in Nashville at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. I'm excited about seeing writing friends, hanging out, networking and brainstorming with other writers about some projects. Talking to some agents and editors, soaking in the classes. My novel is one of the top three finalists in the Noble Theme contest in the Sci/Fi Fantasy category. I'm excited about just making the top three. My pal Ronie made the top three in Sci/Fi Fantasy also, and some other writer friends finalled in other categories. We've already got a nail biters' table planned for Saturday lunch at the conference, when the winners are named.
Yet there's that carrot dangling in front of me to be the best. Not that I'm "better than everyone," but to continually improve at my craft and storytelling to be better than I am now. I'm never quite satisfied. (Okay, I may pat myself on the back on occasion, then pick up another author's book and go, "Wow, wish I'd written that!) And so it goes...
I told you this was a goulash! Which brings me to something else. One more, and I'm done. Writing isn't about me, it's about the story. Right now I'm trying to figure out what stories I'm supposed to tell. What's my tag line? I've written contemporary, historical, suspense, fantasy. Whichever work in progress I'm slaving over is my favorite story at that time. I never write a story I'm not passionate about. To me, the pages of a story should swallow you up and pull you on an adventure. Hence, "Adventures on Paper." I'm not nailed down to a particular genre (yet). Plus, I got some awesome business cards at VistaPrint, so I'm stuck with the tag for now.
Enough! I'm done for tonight. Through bad haircuts, poofy faces, writing stuff, and kids starting school, my Lord is on the throne yet still close enough to whisper in my ear. I like that!
Sunday, August 07, 2005
I survived. The special services were just that--special. I've got a lot of notes to re-read and a lot of personal reflection and quiet time to absorb what the Lord is showing me. Maybe I'll share some of it here. We'll see. I've realized I've got a long way to go, that I could stand to have more compassion for people, and more of the Word in my life.
Tonight after service and ordering Pizza Hut, I've spent the past hour using the hand sander on the floor. I think I'm going to call it Hand Sander Pilates. My abs and back and legs, not to mention my tingling arms, are getting a workout. The big rental sander takes off just that--big stuff. Now we're going behind and babyin' that birch floor, and it's going to be gorgeous when it's finished (no pun intended). I know Hannah will be thrilled to have "her" room back again. I'll be thrilled when we're done.
Oh, to luxuriate in a regular work week. (I'll remember this when they're asking for their required two hours' overtime.)
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
|Your Blogging Type is Artistic and Passionate|
One moment you may be working on a new dramatic design for your blog...
And the next, you're passionately writing about your pet causes.
Your blog is very important - and you're careful about who you share it with.
Call me copycat, but I got this off another author's blog, and thought it was kinda neat. They got me pegged on this one! Only four questions, so I doubt it's scientifically accurate. But my topics vary, and they're about things I care about. I'm not careful about who I share it with--hey, it's the Web. But I'm careful about what I share. Gotta watch those rants, ya know?
I'm up to my armpits in index cards. Busy writing time ahead!
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Oh. And, add to the above the fact that I'm working on my web site. It's posted now, and I'm kinda proud of what's up there: www.lynettesowell.com. Except my links to fiction and non-fiction don't work. Huh. The folks at the Surpass on-line community have been so helpful to this newbie. I'm glad to say my links to e-mail and my blog work, that and returning to the home page. I think I like my design. Couldn't just get something out of the box, but had to make up my own based on certain sites I like. I like complicated, but not when my links don't work. Hopefully my learning curve will accelerate and I'll be totally live!
We said goodbye to Paul today. My "nephew," 18, has left for the Marines and bootcamp. I'm beyond proud of this young man. I pray he'll enjoy his first dive into the world and still stay true to how he's been raised. Of course the next 13 weeks will be the toughest of his life. But he'll get through it. He's got a solid Foundation. I pray my kids do, as they follow in his footsteps. Not to the Marines, but into the big adventure of life.
Gotta run and see how the carpet's coming up in Hannah's room.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
I stayed up late Friday (reading, so I wasn't tortured) doing laundry, which now has to be all rewashed. CJ were the only two adults who didn't smoke where we visited. Blech-blech-blech!!!
I had a delicious introduction to chocolate gravy served over biscuits for breakfast. Yum-yum-yum. I came home with a recipe too. It's a deep South thing, and made my Yankee roots go, "We never heard about this up north!"
We walked the battlefields of Shiloh, beautiful and a little sad. I think if you stand quietly enough, you can still hear the muskets firing. CJ and I walked a couple of cemeteries, and found many of his relatives. We're going to research the names and dates to piece together a family tree. I think he fits a little better in his skin now, knowing where he's from, since he never grew up with his dad and hadn't seen him in 15 years. The kids groan every time we pass a cemetery now. "Please, no more!"
On the way home, we stopped in Little Rock where we met my writing buddy Robin Miller for supper at Denny's. It was so cool to see someone in person who speaks the same language I do. The hour we had went too quickly. (Sorry, Robin!!) We probably could have sat and yacked all night.
I heard from some new characters, too, and I hope I can listen to their stories one day. I arrive home to a stack of work for the writing life:
1. Anthology draft edits before sending to critique buddies.
2. Another proposal that needs a few changes before sending to editor.
3. A NEW proposal I'm working on--deadline creeping up on me!
4. Another look at my WIP, a suspense, that I'm sending for my ACFW critique in September. I'm a bit nervous about this one. I had to drop it for a bit to work on the anthology. Now I'm ready to tackle it again, and I'm wondering if it'll be up to par for this critiquer. They're big in the business and I don't want to botch this opportunity.
5. My fantasy story, long sitting on the shelf.
I haven't even checked the work computer for e-mail. Talk about jumping in with both feet!
But I'm home again, tired yet happy. My kitty's mad at me for being away for a week. I figure she'll get over it. Soon. Sometimes the best part about going on vacation is coming home again.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Anyway! I'm out of the land of the Mulligrubs tonight. Thanks, Robin, Camy--I know you're friends and I appreciate you, even though we don't get to chat a lot. The writer's world can be a lonely one. Last night I ended up in the ACFW chat room and actually got acquainted with another writer, plus another friend logged on. So it was nice. We do need each other. Maybe friendships don't turn out the way we expect, but there's a lot to be said for accepting the gifts God gives to us through people. There's also a lot to be said for recognizing gifts when they're right in front of us.
The countdown to vacation has begun. Saturday, 5:00 a.m., we're pulling out for a week. I plan to stop off when we go through Little Rock and say hi to a writing buddy, Robin Miller. We also plan to spend some time in Memphis soakin' up some culture. That, and build some bridges with my husband's father's side of the family. It should be interesting, to say the least.
Until next time... :-)
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
"He who wants friends must show himself friendly." Which is what I've done. Guess it hasn't worked in this case. I have a Friend, though, who sticks closer than a brother. (And I don't have brothers.) I leaned on Him for a while tonight, and I felt comforted.
If you haven't heard from a friend in a while, why not e-mail them or call and just say hi? It's hard to be friends with someone who only calls or writes when they need something. So give 'em a holler, no strings attached.
I probably have done nothing to offend her or put her off in any way. It's just one of those things, I guess. I hear people talk about the close writer friends they have, and maybe I'm the one who's cut myself off from people. I think most of us feel that way at times, left out on the joke, the fun, the elbow-to-elbow camaraderie. Which is why I need to lean a little more tonight on my Best Friend, who understands me better than even I can--me, who tries not to over-analyze things. He'll remind me once more that it's not about me. Or my breath.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Sunday, July 03, 2005
But today, six days before we leave for vacation, I found myself digging into the Web to find out SOMETHING about our destination. We're headed to my hubby's family--dad, stepmom, and assorted siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins, uncles, aunts in a teensy town on the Tennessee River partway between Memphis and Nashville. Our marriage is a nice blend of North & South, and so far I've managed to get him and the kids to Massachusetts with me, yet we've never gone to his dad's side of the family.
At first, I was afraid there was "nothing there." I'm not big on small talk. I can keep it up for only so long, and then I get the urge to do something or talk about something meaningful. So I found out we're going to be near Shiloh Civil War battleground, the Buford Pussey Museum (of "Walking Tall" fame), and the Cherry Mansion. We could also rent canoes, but I don't think my father- and mother-in-law are very outdoorsy. I pictured us sitting around the house all week. Oh, please, not a week of small talk.
I finally felt more reassured when I found the Chamber of Commerce web site and a link to a neat little restaurant called Uptown. They serve Starbuck's and have a "California bistro atmosphere," according to their site. The couple who started the restaurant uprooted themselves from California after falling in love with Savannah and its people. The menu makes my mouth water. I don't think, though, that we could afford to go out to dinner when we're there. I'll settle for down-home barbecue and sweet tea any day, though.
What does this say about me? (See, toldja I'm not big on small talk. I wish I didn't try to analyze things so much, but I've given up on trying to change that part of my personality and just go with it.) I'm not sure. Maybe CJ's stories about his "hillbilly" relatives scared me deep down. I don't know. Maybe I wanted to see that there's culture there, or at least the kind of culture that I can relate to. Does that make me a snob? I sure hope not.
I am looking forward to building bridges with his Dad. The first time I spoke to him on the phone, I couldn't understand the man. He sounds like Boomhauer on "King of the Hill" with a mish-mosh choppy Southern accent. I did hear the regret in his voice, and that makes me think we're definitely going to have more than small talk. CJ was born when his mom was 16. His dad didn't want him or his younger brother (born 18 months later). They divorced not long afterward. CJ lived with his father once for about six months when going through a rebellious phase as a teenager, but never since. We go to visit family and strangers. It's going to be an interesting week. Maybe we can bring some grace with us. God's grace spreads far. After all we've been given, we can share.
Monday, June 27, 2005
On Today's Menu:Homemade Peach Cobbler (a la mode)
Okay, so peach cobbler was the only dish I could think of to go with warm fuzziness. It's warm, and peaches are fuzzy, but hopefully not in cobbler. I'm feeling pretty warm and fuzzy now that I'm almost done with the first draft.
The other night I was doing some on-line research for a future project. I was clicking through an employee newsletter for an organization related to a new proposal. Gotta get that research right, you know? To be really cliche, lo and behold, I saw a picture of him. He stood in front of a scientific research plane he'd worked on in an engineering project for NASA. Who'da thunk it?
I got snapped back to sixth grade and riding my bike to school. Every day I hope I'd get a glimpse of Steve. Oh, Steve, an absolutely cute eighth grade boy who didn't know I existed. He was quiet and funny and smart. My best friend was friends with his sister, but still, he had no idea who I was. His locker was in the same row as mine--his at the top on one end, mind at the bottom on the opposite end. We passed each other when changing classes. Please, oh, please, say hi to me. I think once "our eyes met." Really, they did.
Now my Hannah is in her post-sixth grade summer. Her "boyfriend" Scott moved onto Fort Hood and away from our neighborhood three weeks before school let out. She saw him on the last day of school, when he said had her number. He would call. They'd keep in touch. Four weeks now, and nothing. She's been busy and having fun earning money, going to the pool, chatting on the phone, helping in day care, sleeping in sometimes, texturing the walls of her room (we're renovating it in retro style--but that's for a whole other post one day). But still, she will occasionally pine for Scott and wonder what she did wrong. "Nothing," I've told her. "Nothing at all."
It might be puppy love, but puppy love is still real to the puppy.
I moved away my junior year of high school, after Steve had already graduated and gone on to college. I still remember him and the school trip to Bush Gardens my sophomore year (he was a senior). They took a group picture, and I sat next to him. Well, actually he ended up about two feet away when they had us all sit on a stone wall in front of a fountain for the picture, but there I was. Next to him. Still crushing, I guess.
Of course now I'm an old married lady, but I still remember the feeling of the possibility of having something special with someone. Warm, fuzzy. I'm definitely not married to a quiet, funny guy. He's funny, but not quiet. God knew for sure I didn't need a quiet man.
Now I just have to be there for my daughter with her warm, fuzzy heartache. She'll get better. We all do.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I started drafting a scene earlier tonight for Luke, the hero. He's really got a neat personality, but Krista the bride is clamoring for attention. No, she's not a Bridezilla or anything. She's just more emotionally open about her problem at the moment. Combine a blast from the past, a wildfire on the horizon, and a harried bride and groom, and you've got quite a mix. Or at least I hope so.
So here I am, bleary-eyed. Getting a scene down on the Alphasmart led me to uploading it, which led me to making some edits and reading for flow, and there you have it. I need to hit the hay. Work calls in the morning. I'm glad I only commute to my work computer in our room.
An author friend has said she'd be happy to look at my story. I've got plenty of eyes to check it out once I'm ready for that to happen. I'm used to critique partners reading my work, but now, this is the real deal. Makes my stomach queasy just thinking about it.
I'll take a dollop of grace for tomorrow along with some cream and Equal in my coffee. Night-o!
Friday, June 17, 2005
On Today's Menu:
Filet O' Fish--No Tartar Sauce (Gag)
That goofy blue fish Dory in Finding Nemo had a point. (No, neither she nor her friends are on the menu. I was just pushing the fish analogy, and I happen to like seafood.) When you look at taking a trip, especially a long trip you've never been on before, the whole journey can seem daunting. You think of how tired you'll be. What if you take a wrong turn? Or there's construction, or flat tires, or other obstacles? You can make yourself give up, or just stay home.
But what was Dory's motto? "Just keep swim-ming, swim-ming! Just keep swim-ming, just keep swim-ming!"
Tonight I hit the halfway point in my novella. Yes, I've written longer books before, but each one is its own journey. Right now my printer is spitting out what I've written so far. I've got my pen poised and my editing hat on my head.
This time, the story isn't coming in sequence for me. Instead of fighting through an uncooperative scene, I've been drafting scenes that demand to be put down. Then I circle around to earlier parts of the book. I've never written this way before, but I've got my spreadsheet next to me with my road map. I think it's working. I've also seen my hero doesn't have as much stage time as the heroine. I'm getting into his head a little more, after watching a Nova DVD called Fire Wars, which follows a team of hot shot wildfire fighters through a season. I learned a lot and have a deep respect for these men and women. I hope after seeing their stories, I'll learn more of Luke's.
One thing I'm excited about is I have a northern California reader who lives in the area near my fictitious town of Settler Lake. She's agreed to read my story to see if I "got" the early summer atmosphere of northern Cal in fire season. We'll see. I hope I get it right. In the meantime, I'll just keep swimming.
Besides this project, I'm doing research for another proposal. I had a warm fuzzy happen with this research, a "blast from the past"--my old sixth grade crush. But that's for another time. Night-o!
Monday, June 13, 2005
What can fiction accomplish in real life? I look at the numbers above and wonder about their significance. I had a great night writing, even chatted briefly on IM with another buddy who was also doing some research. Oh, yes, I'm a research junkie. You give me an obscure question and I'll rip up Google trying to find the answers, or come close. Tonight, though, as I enjoy the creative process, my heart is a bit heavy.
This afternoon about 4:30, a police car pulled up behind one of our cars out front (not ours really, it belongs to a friend and he's leaving it with us for now, but that's not part of this story). Then a maroon SUV pulled up just past our mailbox. A young black woman left the SUV and approached our neighbor's house. She clutched a few papers and wore a phone headset. A police officer followed her.
My husband heard the scream. I didn't. But he said it was one of those things he'll never forget.
"No, that's my baby!" The teen mother let out a shriek.
I saw the Child Protective Services worker carry the child, maybe 18 months old, to the maroon SUV. The baby was blonde, cute as a proverbial button, and wore a pink outfit. The CPS worker strapped her into a car seat. Then she and the officer conversed for a moment. I found my glass of tea, and then found my discreet spot at my bathroom window*.
Now Patty was outside talking to the CPS worker. Patty lives next door. It's a rather complicated family. The baby belongs to Patty's boyfriend's teenage daughter. She visits next door sometimes, but I'm not totally sure of the living arrangements. Theirs is a case of "yours and mine," a forty-something couple living together with a gaggle of kids, ranging from ages seven or eight to fifteen or sixteen. I can't keep them all sorted out, but I think at least seven kids live next door. At one point, Patty had kicked out her boyfriend and his posse of offspring. Now, two weeks later, they're back together.
How can my fiction help them? How could a story help them? This is something I'm trying to figure out. I want to reach out somehow but they are a very proud family--their utilities have sometimes been shut off.
Quite frankly, I'm tired. My husband and I know a couple who's needed much counseling and prayer in the past year, and I feel like I've been drained of what I have to give. The thought of pouring out to someone else makes me want to go into a corner and curl up.
Somehow writing with an audience "out there" in mind is easier (I know, I was talking about kicking cabinets the other day). But someone next door needs help, too.
Lately at church we've been talking about basic things. Prayer. Bible study. Fellowship. Service. I could simply tell Patty and Company, "Y'all need Jesus, " something which many who don't believe as I do might interpret as, "You need to go to church." But it's much more than that. I wouldn't dream of someone trying to seek answers from a group, or a "club." I can only tell her what Jesus has done for me and it's up to her what she does from there. Witnessing outright has never come easily for me, I'm sad to admit.
I can tell, too, that I need a recharge after the exhausting couple. No wonder Jesus was always going off to pray. People and their problems can suck the energy out of someone. I can't change people. I can't solve their problems for them. I can't "make" them believe. I can only learn to set boundaries and point them in the right direction (and keep writing).
*After writing this, I realize how voyeuristic I sound. But I'm a people watcher. I can't help it. Really. As much as they drive me nuts and I'd love to be a hermit sometimes, I do care about people.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
I'm happy to say progress is coming on the novella. It's a first draft, and I want to get it done so I can go back and make it sing. I borrowed the meter I found on another writer's blog. It's kinda nice to see that I'm getting there.
For so many years, I tried to present work to editors that I "just knew" they had to buy. Or, at least I really, really hoped they'd want. Every book proposal I'd sent received a request for the full manuscript. Good average! And every novella proposal I'd sent came back with a "no thanks." Well, once I never received an official "no thanks." I e-mailed someone and they said, "Oh, we picked the stories we wanted for this book. Guess your letter got lost in the mail, but no you didn't make it." (Note: this was not the publisher I'm working for now, mind you! I won't tell tales in school or out of it!)
At any rate, now I find myself wondering if I can pull this off. After all, how many thousands will get to read this story? I want the readers to love these characters, love the setting, love the story and what my characters discover about themselves and God. Heart's Refuge has a lot to do with forgiving and going on in spite of the past. And how do we learn to trust again when someone closest to us has let us down? How do we know it won't happen again? I won't tell you the whole story, but I'm coming to learn along with my characters that we don't have any guarantees that people we love won't let us down. We're human beings with flawed frailty--look at our Desperate Housewives. As long as we're here, we face that frailty.
Okay, so it's a novella and it's not supposed to be too heavy. Plus, my characters are battling a wildfire that threatens them as well. Did I say a novella isn't supposed to be too complicated? Well, I'm trying NOT to complicate things too much. I've only got a little less than 13,000 words to go!
Friday, June 10, 2005
Forget the menu, I'm trying to write!
I've signed my contract, and have the first half of the advance. Nice! Feels grrreat!
Like a good writer, I've kept my September deadline in mind and started writing the story where I left off in my proposal. A solid chapter three has taken form, plus an assortment of scenes that come later. Since this is a novella, I think it'll be a minimum of 10 chapters, depending on word count. The maximum for this book is 20,000 words. Right now my book is around the 6600-word mark, about a third.
And I think in its current form it stinks. I've got my synopsis, my road map. But my characters feel like marionettes on a stage, flopping around at my direction. Inside my head, I see the story playing out on a screen, scene by scene. Why don't the words come so vividly?
So I've given myself a time-out to see what's wrong. Maybe I haven't given my characters enough free rein to show their emotions. Or have I not placed them firmly enough in their setting, in northern California wildfire country? At any rate, I picked up a new book I bought at Barnes & Noble on Memorial Day. It's a mystery/suspense, by an author I haven't read before. It's good, it draws me in already.
I think I just need to relax and write. Hopefully these holes will fill themselves in. Plus I hope the characters will cut their strings and live the story on the pages for me.
Now I know what Brandilyn Collins means about kicking cabinets.
I have people counting on me, not just my own personal goal to finish this story and finish well. It's a little scary. But this is what I've longed for! I'm so glad I'm not going it alone.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Graduation Cake, half chocolate, half white
I am so sick of cake. We went to five graduation parties last weekend, and for some reason had cake at four of them. Don't ask me why. When it came time for cake and the plates were passed, we didn't say no. Can you say eating without a brain?
At the last party on Sunday night at church, we watched a Powerpoint presentation of four of the graduating boys as they grew up. With those pictures, I saw my own kids grow up along with two of them. The only thing that makes me want to cry is the fact that a certain boy leaves this summer, and those days of the Fabulous Four--Paul, Matt, Zach and Hannah--are gone. Once upon a time, my best friend Lisa (Paul and Matt's aunt) and I took the kids to the zoo, with all four of them stuffed in the back of her Pulsar with the T-top down. Now Paul's headed to the Marines in July, and life around here will not be the same without him. Meanwhile the two 15-year-old boys and a certain 13-year-old girl left behind will learn about the changes life brings. The tighter we try to hold onto people, the easier they slip through our fingers.
Graduation isn't the ending. Another name for graduation is commencement, which also means "beginning."
I can spend time letting tears fall as I look at pictures of the past, and totally miss the fact that there's changes coming. The future shines bright like an unspoiled morning. Yet I said in a post months ago, "I fear change," like the guy in the Domino's pizza commercial who only orders pepperoni. I shouldn't say I fear change. It's more the unknown that makes me wonder--what if the changes don't bring warm, fuzzy feelings?
Graduation--commencement--beginning--brings change. As a mother, it's realizing my kids aren't kids anymore. Junior high and high school, thanks very much. As an aunt and a friend, it's realizing I get to cheer my nephews on as they step into adulthood, thankful I've had a role in helping them become who they are. As a writer, I feel the weight of trust that a publisher has given me. It's exciting, scaring, exhilarating. When I think of beginning, I think of fresh pages in a notebook, ready to write on. I think of New Year's Day with a whole year full of possibilities, or the first day of school with a new lunch box and sneakers without scuffs.
In all our beginnings, God's mercies are new every morning. I call that a Graduation Guarantee.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Still More Just Desserts (Or, A Diabetic's Nightmare)
I was recounting my jury duty experience and interrupted it with the news of my first fiction sale. (Yes, I'm still on that sugar rush--no worries, Robin B., pull up a chair and grab a spoon!) Well, the young woman, the victim's sister, requested to take the stand again after lunch.
Here comes a "Law & Order" twist.
She said, "Well, I'm not sure exactly who I saw look through that blind and shoot my brother."
The defense attorney pounced on this. From that point on, I could not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that this man was guilty of the crime he allegedly committee. I wasn't sure. I had a very, very strong feeling he could have done it, but we only had one witness's word (and his girlfriend's) about who was inside that house and where they were when the police arrived. Sleeping. Hmmm. And this same witness bore a very strong resemblance to the accused. Even when the DA called a few witnesses at the county jail to testify about some alleged conversations and shouting between the accused and some others who'd been present at the time of the incident, I still couldn't believe these officials had an accurate recollection of what they heard at the time, any more than I had believed the victim's sister.
The DA could not produce enough witnesses to satisfy my reasonable doubts. When my fellow jurors and I went into deliberations, our initial vote was 10 not guilty, 2 guilty. The charge required a unanimous verdict. We decided to have a good lunch and then come back and kick the evidence around some more. Eight of us ladies went to a local Mexican cafe, oh yum. We managed to talk about all kinds of things--men, our kids, our activities, local news, shopping--anything but the trial. Hey, we're women! After an hour's worth of chat and enchiladas, I was ready to work.
Late in the afternoon of the second day of the trial, we had our unanimous vote. The verdict was read, and the accused clenched his fists at his sides and hissed a soft, "Yes." Once the judge continued reading, the young man started wiping tears from his eyes. We as a jury were released from our gag order (which is why I can say all this now).
Michael spent the last nine months in jail. I hope he learned something in the midst of this mess. Whether or not he shot the victim is one thing. Did I help release a criminal to the streets? I hope not. If he was a criminal, I hope and pray he's not a criminal any more.
Fact is, there's lots of not-guilty people running the streets. Not innocent, but those who've been proclaimed "not guilty."
Friday, May 20, 2005
Buttercream Icing, A Whole Bowl Just for ME!
I interrupt my jury duty story with a thrilling bit of news. This Tuesday, I received "the e-mail." My novella has been accepted for publication next summer! Three of my author friends and I submitted a proposal together. Oh, I screamed. I scared my husband. I wrote one of my friends and asked her, "Does this mean what I think it does?" The publisher already sent me a PDF contract and I've signed two copies and popped it in the mail to them. This fall, I was planning to go to a writer's conference and now it's all covered.
After my posts of "The Prize in the Cereal Box" and "Uphill Both Ways in the Snow" I'm finally seeing some fruit of my labors. Yes, I believe my writing has a purpose even if it's not accepted for publication. Still, though, I really, really wanted a fiction contract--one with my name on the cover.
My life is full. I have many blessings beyond this contract, beyond writing. I have a wonderful husband, two great teenagers, a good job, family, friends--I could go on. This week though, I feel like I've been handed a bowl of dee-licious buttercream icing to go with my cake. And I can eat all I want. Yes, I've been flying!
I do have to come down and get to work on the book though. The sugar rush feels good!!
Monday, May 16, 2005
More Just Desserts
I spent three days at the county courthouse last week on a jury for a criminal case. On day one, I sat around and waited. I didn't think I'd be chosen. My summons read juror #222. They only needed 12. I was certain I'd be back at my work computer that afternoon.
Somehow I fit whatever profile the DA and the defense attorney agreed upon. The 12 of us made the best of it as for a day-and-a-half we heard testimony from a myriad of witnesses about what happened on August 29, 2004 at a particular residence in the town where I live.
The young man was originally booked on a charge of attempted murder, but indicted on assault with a deadly weapon. Sitting in the courtroom, he looked like a polished young man with an inscrutable expression. His dark chocolate eyes didn't glance in our direction very often. I wondered what he wrote when he jotted occasionally on his legal pad. His defense attorney, a no-nonsense woman with a strong sharp voice and bad posture, would glance down at the paper from time to time. I learned later that he had not made bail when I saw him escorted across the parking lot after a day in court, headed towards the county jail diagonally across the street. His slight limp betrayed an ankle bracelet (just like Martha's!) covered up by his tailored khaki pants.
"None of these people are angels," the DA had said when he began the profile of the trial for us, the jury. "You will hear testimony from a young man in Federal prison. Some of these people on both sides of the case have had run-ins with the law before."
At first it seemed cut-and-dry. The accused had supposedly fired out the front window of the house where he was living, wounding a young man in the arm.
"We saw him look through the blinds before he fired," insisted both the young man, and his sister, who first told us she was with her brother at the front door.
The young man who'd been shot glanced over at the defendent. "I--I just wanna be careful, don't wanna send no one to jail if they ain't done nothing. But I know it was him, I mean, I'm pretty sure it was him."
Another young woman took the stand. She'd been with the young man and his sister when he was shot. Her long hair hung limply down her back. Her baggy clothes made her look heavier than she probably was.
She raised her hand to be sworn in. "I don't want to do this..." She was ready to cry, but she had no choice but testify. She'd been driven in from the prison, where she was serving a term for a felony misdemeanor.
Another young man testified. He'd been asleep in the house while the accused shot out the window, and he hadn't heard anything until the police came. He too had the same polished demeanor of the accused. I remember seeing their similar facial features and coffee-with-cream complexion and thinking, "They could be cousins," when the bailiff let him into the courtroom.
How easy it is for young people to mess up their lives. No education, no gainful employment, and lots of party time with the wrong crowd. Add in immaturity and a hair-trigger temper, and even the girls would end up in cat-fights. In fact, the night before the shooting, two of them had fought--one had cut another's hand with a knife. The one with the cut hand in turn slashed the tires of the other girl's car. A real "adult" way to solve conflicts, huh?
After a morning's testimony which included an ER physician who assured us the young man had to have the bullet remain in his arm, and a few officers who responded to the shots-fired call, I was ready to eat my sandwich in peace at the park and listen to Days on my car radio.
When we resumed after lunch, though, the first witness returned, telling the court she needed to add more to her testimony...
To Be Continued...
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Holy Mixed Fruit Medley!
There's an old song that goes: "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love..." I remember we sang it around the fire at camp, back in the Kum By Ya era. (I must note that back then I was very, very young.)
Am I showing Christ and how to live a Christian life because I say the right words and know the special secret code catch phrases? (See? I used a catch phrase there--'showing Christ,' as if I carried Him in my pocket to share with the class at show-and-tell.) In some circles, it's not enough to answer, "I'm fine," when someone asks how you're doing. It's better to say, "I'm blessed."
Do we think that because we wear only Christian clothes, read only Christian books, tune into only Christian news, listen to only Christian music, speak only Christian phrases, suck on Testa-mints instead of Tic-Tacs, consume only Christian food and drink that these things make us examples to others? "Be like me, join our club." Do we think someone wants to join in based on just those things?
What fruit do our lives bear? It doesn't matter if we look like Christ's #1 fan on the outside with a T-shirt that says "Go God!" in red festooned with pom-poms.
"The Pharisees, along with some religion scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around him. They noticed that some of his disciples weren't being careful with ritual washings before meals. The Pharisees--Jews in general, in fact--would never eat a meal without going through the motions of a ritual hand-washing, with an especially vigorous scrubbing if they had just come from the market (to say nothing of the scourings they'd give jugs and pots and pans).
The Pharisees and religion scholars asked, "Why do your disciples flout the rules, showing up at meals without washing their hands?"
Jesus answered, "Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull's-eye in fact:
These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn't in it.
They act like they are worshiping me,
but they don't mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy,
Ditching God's command
and taking up the latest fads."
Jesus called the crowd together again and said, "Listen now, all of you--take this to heart. It's not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it's what you vomit--that's the real pollution.
When he was back home after being with the crowd, his disciples said, "We don't get it. Put it in plain language."
Jesus said, "Are you being willfully stupid? Don't you see that what you swallow can't contaminate you? It doesn't enter your heart but your stomach, works its way through the intestines, and is finally flushed."
He went on: "It's what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness--all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution."
Excerpts from Mark chapter 7 (the Message)
Lord, help me work on my insides most of all. I won't have to say "I'm blessed" or drive down the road with Mercy Me blaring out the windows, or buy the latest Holy Joe wrist band (in rainbow colors!). When You shine through, I won't have to try to look like a groupie.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Mississippi Mud Pie
Trying to get my current book written is like going uphill, both ways, for ten miles, in the snow, with bare feet and no coat. Here I go again, hearing that inner admonition that if I really want to do something, I'll do it. Hey, I admit it--for the right item, I'll get to Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving at 5:30 a.m. (well-coffeed, of course). Otherwise, I'll sleep in like I will tomorrow morning. Well, to 8:00 at least.
What motivates me to write? Looking back on this blog, I can see that little by little, I've taken a journey and shared snippets of my travels with the world at large. Or small. Thank you, to my two fans! Seriously though, when properly motivated, people will do anything.
What's my payoff? At this point, it's simply finishing what I started. I haven't finished a full-length book in nearly three years. What is wrong with me? I believe part of the problem is getting sidetracked and losing focus. Then it sort of degenerated into a block of some kind that makes me almost think completing another book is beyond my reach. I got stuck in the mud. There, I've said it. A block. I can't remember who said there was no such thing as writer's block, but an abundance of lazy writers.
I'm waving my hand in the back row. The teacher's caught me sleeping in class. But I'm awake now, and working. I wrote seven pages tonight. They may be drivel, but they're seven pages. My heroine's in a tight spot, poor thing, and I'm glad she's squirming right now because I know I'm learning.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Ecclesiastes 12:12b
You betcha, and I'm tired! Signing off for the evening,
Ms. Lazywriter (but I'm being reformed, really I am!)
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
A Pity Party, With Chips
A friend has a problem, and I desperately want to help her. I believe she wants help, but I wonder why she still goes back and does the same things again and again? My compassion is wearing thin by now. Bear with me for a moment as I think aloud.
As a Christian, I believe I have every answer to every problem I'll ever face. Not in me, of course. I can mess things up quicker than a kid can stuff a PB 'n J sandwich into a DVD player and push "play." I succeed when I surrender to what Jesus wants for me in spite of my feelings, in spite of circumstances and when it seems like the world is spinning out of control. I may go along kicking and screaming, but I'm going along anyway. What a relief that my faith is not based on "getting it right" so I can achieve "paradise," or whatever other religions may offer. I would be the worst Buddhist, Christian Scientist, etc., (you fill in the blank) if it totally depended on me. But in spite of my failures and occasional cases of the "uglies," there's hope for me because of Christ.
Why then, do I continually see people who live as if there is no hope for them? They profess that they follow Christ and His teachings, they say they believe in the Bible, but the way they deal with their struggles is anything but hope-filled. So that brings me back to my friend. I wish I could help her, I really do, but until she knows for sure that Jesus is her deliverer and she can be strong in spite of what she's up against, my efforts are futile. All the self-talk and positive thoughts will provide only temporary comfort. She's left with herself and her struggles when the words die out.
Is it any wonder why some choose not to follow Christ? If those of us who do live as though we have no answers, I don't blame them. Then again, when all is said and done, we can't point the finger because so-and-so didn't act like a "Christian."Like when my kids bicker and say, "Well, they're not acting right, so--" No excuses, no sob story, no blame game.
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything, you know--far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:19-20, The Message