Friday, April 29, 2005

Uphill, Both Ways, In the Snow

On Today's Menu:
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 Sob Story

On Today's Menu:
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

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mi Vida Loca

On Today's Menu:
Hot Tamales, With Extra Salsa on the Side

Most people who know me, I hope, will characterize me as a pretty laid-back person. I don't generally get road rage. I can wait in lines. I don't howl at a red light.

But today, I think, I'm ready for a rant about rude old men. Really. It all started when I was actually in a hurry, on one of my work breaks, and driving Mom's Taxi. Somehow I had to fit in a trip by the grocery store for three things. Three--troi-tres measly items that we couldn't do without until the weekend. In the comedy of errors that was my afternoon, I decided to breeze in and out of our local HEB store with Zach. Ha. Some breeze. We were definitely in the doldrums, no sail, no outboard motor. The metaphor ends here.

Everyone in town had decided to go by the store just before 4:00 p.m. The lines stretched wayyy back down the aisles. Seems everyone in town wanted to buy ten items or less, too. I found myself standing next to the root beer and Mountain Dew.

Then, I saw him. He had gray hair with a Donald Trump comb-over and plastic framed glasses. He stood there, clutching his gallon of milk and other stuff, and seemed oblivious to the world except for the guy in front of him holding French bread and a tub of ice cream. Rrright. He had no clue the line continued down the aisle to his right. I supposed he'd lost all peripheral vision. He proved to be a sly old coot, and a rude one. The line moved forward, and Mr. Combover slid into the respectful line break ahead of us and behind French bread dude. I could feel the air crackle behind me; another shopper had played by the rules and gotten in line behind where he was supposed to.

I looked at Zach. "Did you see that guy? He just cut us!" I had a flashback to high school lunchroom. Ick. I bit my lip. Coming off the PMS would not have caused Christian, kind, uplifting, positive things to come from my mouth. Even my tone would have been bristly, though the words themselves would have been benign. So I gagged myself.

Then the sign over aisle 9 lit up. Whooee! Another man dashed to the aisle. That's okay. I was on my way, and I had a CART. Move over, basket-toters!

Mr. Combover, Mr. Oblivious to the World flew in front of me so quickly I nearly turned him into a speed bump. For a millisecond, I wanted to. Don't let those old guys fool you. They can move when they want to. On any other day, he probably complains about his back or knees or whatever in his body is degenerating, but not today. I ended up staying where I was. Now I was the one behind French bread dude after the mass migration.

Did I mention I also was in the line with the slowest cashier in the store? The other lines moved faster because they were really moving faster. I told myself never to get in Billy's line again. I don't care that he wears an earring. I did care that he moved slower than--well, you fill in the blank for something that moves like a glacier.

Mr. Combover left the store, and I believe I actually heard a sniff of triumph before the sliding doors whooshed open.

I could probably actually write a Psalm, about wicked old men who push their way in line and cut off nice young(ish) moms who are only trying to get out of the store so they can go get the one kid left at school and who's now probably wondering where Mom is by this time and so she can get home and work for another hour. Yes, the run-on is intentional.

One of the things I love about the Psalms is David's--and other writers'--frank emotions. I wasn't calling down fire from Heaven on some older man with a bad hairdo. But I can understand the psalmist's frustration, aggravation, despair, the questioning in his words. Our emotions are timeless, whether our enemies bear swords or come in the form of a man wrapped up in his own little world.

Now that I've allowed my rant, I understand the peace the psalmist felt, after recognizing in the big picture, God's got it all under control. I can vent and (hopefully) not let my anger infect me and spread to others, and I can acknowledge His place in the craziness. I'm not sure if I ever see Mr. Combover again that I'll offer him a place in line ahead of me. But I'll be able to smile at him and mean it. He's taught me I can find a Psalm in the grocery store.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Lost in the Sand Dunes

On Today's Menu:
A big slice o' birthday cake

My son turned 15 last week. Which is why I haven't posted. That, and the tax man came and went. Now life has settled into a blur of overtime at work. Thank you, Lord, for job security!

But about the birthday. I've mentioned before on our morning ride in Mom's Taxi that the kids and I listen to our favorite deejays. At 7:30 they always announce local birthdays and anniversaries that listeners call in. To Zach, this is a big deal. So shortly after 7:00 I tried sneaking a call from my cell phone while hiding in the bathroom. Finally got through to the deejay, gave Zach's name, age, and town, then worked a little until I realized it was 7:29. We flew out the door just in time to jump in the car and listen for the birthdays.

We headed down the street on our regular route. Finally, the guy announced Zach's birthday. For two seconds, Zach glowed in the spotlight. He was a star. Yes, Zach in our town turned 15 today, and everyone needed to know! Somewhere, that mattered to someone. Lots of people, in fact. ( I had to buy 6 large pizzas Friday night for the sleepover.) We're all celebrities in our house, even the kitties.

No matter what culture someone belongs to, they seek significance. It's a pretty sorry belief to think that we're all just "dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind..." and have that be the end of it. Even though I find that old song by Kansas hauntingly beautiful, I refuse to be a fatalist.

Abraham was told his descendents would be as numerous as the sands of the seashore. That's a big family. Looking at the family tree of history, it would be easy to feel lost in the dunes.

Wanna know what I think? No, I believe? Our birthdays are cherished in the largest baby book of them all. Every day, more pictures are added. We all fit, somewhere, in that book. We matter. Often we seek our significance from other people.

Please--love me--validate me--make me believe I count. We look to meaning from other fallible creatures who can sorely disappoint us. Don't get me wrong--the icing on the cake of my life is to be loved by an amazing man, to become a mother to his children, to have friends I can call at 3 AM if I need them, to have girlfriends I can shoe shop with, to have soul sisters who also write--I feel like somehow, I do fit. But what if they all disappeared? Would I still belong?

This why the cry, "Love me--validate me--make me believe I count" cannot just be answered by things and people of this earth. People come and go from our lives. Things decay. Jobs change. Shoes wear out (even the really cute ones, drat it). I'd rather anchor myself to Someone immovable.

I thank you, High God--you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration--what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

The Bible, Psalm 139: 14-16

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Those Crazy Lawn Ornaments

On Today's Menu:
An Unexpected Slice of Pineapple

One of the nice parts about working at home is being able to operate Mom's Taxi Service after school. We've got our little routine in the morning, the kids and I. After trooping to the car and settling The Great Daily Controversy about who gets to sit "up front"--you'd think at 13 and nearly 15 they'd have figured out a system by now instead of plowing each other over to get to the car--I turn on the morning radio show with the two hilarious local deejays. We always go the same route. I repeat the identical trip in the afternoon. No big deal.

Going through our neighborhoods of ranch houses of various ages, there's really not much interesting, unless you count the ominous BLUE VAN that belongs to the school district. It looks like a UPS van masquerading as one of the Blue Man Group, and we usually pass it either coming or going each morning or afternoon. Since the school district's maintenance and bus garages are across the street from our house, it's not so big a coincidence to see the BLUE VAN. When we pass it or it passes us, Hannah usually makes the sound, "Bumm-bump!" (think the theme from "Jaws") See? We're easily amused with our overactive imaginations, wondering why the BLUE VAN is following us around town.

Anyway, about our boring commute in Mom's Taxi. One day, going down Robertson past all the cookie-cutter ranch houses, I saw what looked like a giant--something--sitting in a lawn chair in front of a house. Huh?

I made a point to look more closely on the way home. Sure enough, next to an older Pacific Island man, as round as he is tall, sat a giant stuffed lion. They watched traffic go by from their seats on a matching set of lawn chairs. A whole menagerie of fuzzy critters in rainbow colors were scattered about the yard, the porch, and next to some potted plants.

I cracked up. This guy has got to be bonkers, sitting in his front yard with a bunch of stuffed animals!

Now that I noticed the Island man and his friends, I couldn't forget that house on the curve. The zoo never waved "hello" in the mornings. I guess we're all in such a hurry to get where we're going we wouldn't pay much attention, or care.

But going on 4:00 in the afternoon, when I've about wound down my work day and I'm tired, the Noah's ark on the front lawn brings a smile to my face.

Today, a giant teddy bear at least three feet tall sat in the lawn chair. And he wore a turquoise Hawaiian shirt. I almost waved. Maybe tomorrow I will!

The Island man knows what he's doing. Call him crazy, but all he's trying to do is bring a smile in the midst of the mundane. What a guy!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Great Grout Meltdown

On Today's Menu:
Patty Melt with Swiss Cheese (and perhaps a little wHine)

They finished our new bathroom today. I like to stand in the doorway and just look, even though we still haven't painted the walls, the vintage mirror I ordered off eBay still hasn't shipped, our towel bar is on backorder, and Wal-Mart sold out of the chrome free-standing TP holder. I can hardly believe that, yes, this is our dream bathroom, the first room we ever designed ourselves.

I always get annoyed with designers on home improvement shows who act like the world is ending because a certain feature of their design doesn't turn out right, either because someone does something wrong or an aspect just doesn't work out. I mean, really, be a little flexible, okay? What's the big deal if the paint is cream rather than ecru?

Tuesday morning I looked at the grout after our contractor had wiped the tiles down thoroughly. The floor is slate, a beautiful blending of greens and grays and dark blue and even a little rust, all swirled together to look like ocean water. I am in love with this floor. It will be a cool comfort to my feet on summer days. But the grout, supposedly darker, is a lighter gray than I remembered from the sample card.

"That's the color of the grout?" I tried not to show my disbelief.

"Yeah, this is it." Dave, on his hands and knees, buffed another tile. "Sure looked darker when we put it down."

Buddy, you got that right. No, it wasn't hideous, just not what I expected. I started the morning off in quite a mood and spent a little time trying to hide it. I found the grout color selector card we had used at the store, but of course, the section with the color we'd selected had gotten torn off and probably sent on its way to the landfill. Great. I wanted the grout to blend in with the tiles, not look like I could play tic-tac-toe on the floor.

Slowly but surely, I felt myself transforming into a Home Improvement Diva ready to enter her meltdown phase. "Stop the cameras, please!" The show was ending, the floor was NOT how I'd exactly envisioned it, and it really wasn't anyone's fault. My dear husband noticed, but didn't say much. I think, if I remember while in my diva haze, he did say something about cooling my jets. I walked off the set and to my office.

I suddenly realized how spoiled I've become. I would much, much rather this exquisite room of ceramic, slate, wood, and chrome--even with lighter floor grout than I expected--than have what I had before. NO, I don't want the ugly pink vanity back, or the Pepto-Bismol colored tiles. In twenty years, perhaps even in less time, the grout color won't matter at all.

I kicked myself out of my snit. Grout can come and grout may go, but attitudes are always remembered.

"The blessing of the LORD makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Learning Curves

On Today's Menu:
A Piece of Chocolate Cake (made from scratch)

The more I learn to write, the more I discover how NOT patient I am. Yes, I just used bad grammar. But impatient seems so "fussy"and "proper" in this case. The road to publication hasn't been an easy one. I've had more detours and potholes than I care to relate. I have friends who've had harder journeys. So far I've contributed to about half a dozen books, had some articles published, received some really "nice" rejection letters, and earned frequent flyer miles from going to writers' conferences. I did buy myself a pretty necklace with the first check. Another check helped pay for conference expenses.

What is my motivation? I suppose like most writers it's because I've got something to say through story, and I want to share it. The power of story is what bridges gaps between generations and beliefs. Story helps us understand the "tuff stuff" we can't puzzle through on our own. Combine that with the God Factor and you've got some words with real power. Is it any wonder that the Bible is still the #1 best seller? Sure, real men wrote the Bible, but they wrote as God moved them. There's a consistency that we writers like to call voice that permeates each book. Not that I'd ever expect my writing to come close to the Bible, but I believe stories can point us in the right direction. Some of us understand different messages than others, so that's why I think there's room for all our voices. Now if only the publishers' budgets would agree!

Besides working through "tuff stuff," I think stories should entertain. I've read some great books that made me laugh and cry and transported me to places I've never been. Then, as an added bonus some of them slide around behind me and wham!--I learn something new or I'm challenged in a fresh way.

Thr3e by Ted Dekker did that for me last year. I rode a rollercoaster ride of suspense and had my thinking challenged, too. Not bad. If I can but learn to write half as well. Another book that did that was The Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock, part heart-wrenching tale, part allegory.

Becoming a better writer is learning to hone my craft better so I can entertain while weaving that message in so it shines through without the, "Okay, time for the sermon" moments that make some people scratch their heads or skim. Oh, how I long to aim ever higher, to realize that in some aspects I'm starting to "get it." I'm learning to keep some joy in the journey, even if it's longer than I hoped.