Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

The Hospitality Story

So at church we were asked to write a short story about hospitality because our new pastor has this uncanny gift for remembering everyone’s skills, passions and talents and wants to include as many people into things as she can (don’t think I didn’t notice), and of course in my unmistakable, yet unintentional contrary way I wrote about the absence of hospitality.  Here is my story.

The Absence of Hospitality

I know I was supposed to write about hospitality.  And I swear I had one or two stories in my head ready to go but this one kept coming to me and after the persistent thought came for the fourth time in a week I was like, “Fine!  I’ll write the thing even if it doesn’t get used,” then I added furiously, “but it has to have an ending, you know.  It has to have a point.”  I implored to the sky.  I felt just a smile, a knowing smile and I gave back a frustrated sigh.

You see the problem with this story, other than it doesn’t exactly fit into the requested parameters,  is that it is not necessarily a story but a series of images with a story that grows up and around those images.

I had to have been four or five years old, just barely five anyway.  We had just recently moved into Navy Housing.  I remember the clean kitchen counter, the empty kitchen drawer, open and being filled.  I remember pulling the plastic Kool Aid pitcher out of a box and either my mother or an older cousin pouring the grape Kool Aid mix into it, the puffy purple cloud coming up, filling my nose and making me sneeze.  I remember the silver ring on the back of the package and pulling out the recently placed scissors, too sharp for me to use, to cut it out and the five year old satisfaction of seeing that Kool Aid ring around my finger.

There was this huge park behind my house and I was so excited to go out and play.  There was thick mud circling the merry-go-round with footprints pressed upon former footprints.  There were puddles under the swings and little balls of earth where the earthworms had come out and then jumped right back into the earth again.  The air was crisp but smelled like a patch of spring making a surprise appearance in the middle of winter.  On the merry-go-round, there was a little girl, about my age, wearing a pink spring jacket and purple rain boots.

I skipped up to her the way a young Navy child who has moved too many times in her short lifetime would and asked,  “Do you want to be friends?”

“No!” she screamed and ran off.

I made a few friends that day for it is hard to resist a sudden spring day wrapped in the middle of winter.  I made even more friends in the days following, and more still in the years after that.  I don’t have any ill feelings toward the girl, and yet I still remember that day.  The images, smells and sensations come up so very clear in my mind when an unexpected spring breeze brings its scent to me.

And I think.  Did Mary remember every sensation of that night?  Every “no,” every slammed door causing her to put her experiences to memory.  Years later did she remember the sound of gravel under her feet, the smells lingering in the air, the taste of wine on her lips?  Was every moment etched in her mind because the sting of rejection made it stay?

I remember the birth of my five children.  I remember holding each one in my arms but I don’t remember the smell of the day, whether it was warm or cold, and I admit that out of the five a few may be blurred together.  Mary would have gone on to have many more children.  It was expected in those days, but this birth, I believe, stayed with her.  This birth was the memory that turned into a tale that eventually became one simple Bible verse we hear every Christmas.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

                                                    Luke 2:7

The beginning of a story told over and over again that would eventually go to live on forever.  Sometimes negative things need to happen, to spur us on, hold us back a little or make the memories stay, so that the one, all important story, gets written.

There’s more to this story that I couldn’t let go.  I am connected to the written word, stories most of all.  Everything I write is true, if not written off my heart.  I didn’t necessarily know where this one was going.  I thought maybe I would talk about how bad things happen to bring about good things or something along those lines, but I stepped away, which I often do when I am writing, and after a perusal of my Bible and a little bit of rewriting in the shower that is what I came away with.

Later that night I saw the Bible open in my bathroom and I marveled.  I shook my head in amazement. He pulled me in.  I have mentioned before that while my concept of God was getting bigger I seemed to have lost my personal relationship with Him.  I noticed at my daughter’s youth group meeting, that I sort of helped out with, that I could write all the other parts of the prayer with specific details but I could not write “God I love you.”  I have also written that every time I pull away He is waiting there ready to spread his arms and take me back.  I have never, until right now, wrote that He pulled me to Him.  That He sent out a lifeline, tossed it my way and hoped I would grab hold and He used a story to do it.  So today I am grateful that He loves me even if I can’t say it back to Him.  Today I am grateful I’m a little closer to the end of my journey because that is what this is, MY journey.  I will find my way back to him but it won’t because someone told me what to believe, or told me how to behave or expected me to take everything written and spoken as fact it will be because I walked back to him straight up with a belief that was mine, a relationship that was real and a strength no one will ever be able to take away from me.

Today I am thankful…Happy Thanksgiving everybody.



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The List

Since school started its first full week I feel like my depression is on a default setting.  I wake up depressed; it’s not bad about a 5 on the depression Richter scale.  It’s enough to make me miserable, but not so bad that it can’t be fought.  So I spend each day fighting, bringing up my disposition and by the end of the day I’m feeling pretty good.  Last week I sent out three query’s, met with a friend who is going to help me build a platform, went back to yoga AND I am running every other day.  I go to bed depression free and wake up to find myself back at 5 and have to start the day all over again. 

 Today I went to yoga, did my grocery shopping, ate fairly well, managed to solve my “need to be in four places at once” problem and prepared to run early so I can shower, get the kids off the bus and get my oldest daughter to her senior photo shoot before I have to make a dessert and head to a family dinner.  I change into my running clothes and check my stupid email before I head to the treadmill, (a stupid habit I need to kill) and lo and behold my third official rejection is there to greet me. 

I know rejections are coming.  I know they are part of the process but I feel so miserable about not working full time and it’s so easy to believe I am wasting my time trying to get published.  I save my tantrum for later and hit the treadmill.  I was actually beginning to like running (a little) but today it all comes back to me why I hate it.  I hate this. I can barely do 2 minutes much less the 3 I did on Saturday and the five (!!!) I’m supposed to do today? Forget it!  I gained two pounds yesterday and for the life of me I can’t remember why I am still doing this, any of this.

 I have a friend who runs while watching really bad TV.  She knows someone who runs to really bad music.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Give me anything to distract my mind from how much my legs burn, how bad my knee hurts and that my lungs are about to explode.  What do I listen to for motivation?  Teen music.  Yup teen music; Victorious, Lemonade Mouth, Selena Gomez.  Yes, I am so pathetically sad. 

 So I ran my three minutes, quit half way through my five and ran my last three.  I can’t do this!  I hate this!  ALL OF THIS!  The pain, the feeling of failure, the stupid depression.  I hate all of it. “Breakthrough” by Lemonade Mouth comes on.  Sometimes your dreams feel so far away. Yup it does.  Feels like a string of bad days.  Two weeks actually, thanks for pointing that out.  Don’t give up.  Keep going.  Prove to the world they were wrong.

 These are the messages these songs try to send out to kids.  (Which they would get if the music wasn’t considered so totally un-cool by the kids who need them) This is what I want to tell all those kids who ask me about my book.  I want to hold up a published copy and say, “Look!  I did it!  I didn’t give up and I got published!  Don’t give up your dream!  Work hard and make your dreams come true!”  So I ran.  I ran because I don’t want to give up.  I ran because I need one good thing right now.  I ran because I want to be a published author.  I reached five minutes which may not be a big deal to some, but to someone who didn’t think she’d make even three and a half minutes today, it’s huge! 

 It’s so easy to say forget your dreams, get a job and make some money.  I struggle between holding on and giving up every day.  I guess that’s where my default five is coming from, but this life is what we make it and I would rather give up the “things” in my life than at the end of it sit in a big house regretting what I didn’t hold on to.  I wrote 50,000 words in a month, (25,000 words in three days), and I ran five whole minutes when I really didn’t believe I could.  I just added one more thing to my list.  I’ll take all those little victories and hold them close and one day not only will I add “published author” to the list I will also be able to write “inspired someone else to follow their dream.”  Now that’s a list I will be proud to reflect on while sitting on a small porch of a small house in the winter of my life. 

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Yeah you guessed it, it came back.  But if you think about it, I have been depression free for 11 weeks straight.  That’s nearly 3 months! 77 days! or if you really want to get technical; one thousand eight hundred and forty eight blissful, depression free hours.  And!  I did say that by the fourth week of waiting for an agent response I would be a nut job and I have made it to five with nary an outburst.  (Well none that had to do with the book anyway.)

So what happened?  Well two of my triggers are a lack of purpose and the guilt over not having a full time job.  My husband has begun to read my book and one morning he mentioned that he was having trouble getting into the story and maybe I need to put more into it to keep the reader’s attention.  He also explained that he didn’t want to just tell me he liked it even if he didn’t.  He was not going to be someone who would simply tell me what I wanted to hear and he then gave an example, “like your friend so and so, she wouldn’t tell you to go get a job if that’s what you needed instead of what you wanted.”  Bam! my two issues in the same innocent sentence.  So off he goes to work leaving me home.  I keep busy, doing laundry and cleaning.  I was working on another spiritual problem while making some teacher gifts when sometime around 2 in the afternoon it dawned on me, “Damn, (sigh) I’m depressed.  When did that happen?”

So here I am feeling like my book will never be published, I will never be a writer and I need to start looking for some sort of full time job.  The other spiritual lesson I was working on told me to take some time.  To go with the flow, relax.  Give it three days.  (OK that’s not specific or anything)  But how can I?  I need to start looking for a real job!  I need to do something!  Relax.  But!  Relax.  But!  REEE…LAAAX!  Yeah it wasn’t going well.

By evening I had the wherewithal to check where my husband’s bookmark was.  He was on page four.  Really! Page four!  I’ve read books where the introduction lasted well into the third chapter.  He was bored on page four?  I lay in bed while he brushed his teeth and my mind automatically started going over my book.  The funny scenes, the tense scenes, the ending, all the scenes he hadn’t gotten to yet.  It’s a good story!  It does not follow a typical format and when I focused on the different scenes I became confident that someday this book, one way or another, will get published.

The next morning I got called to work.  I put on my suit jacket, grabbed my coffee, kissed my husband good-bye (sent off the two younger kids to the neighbor and dropped off my older daughter to high school) and walked into school with a full and happy heart.  It was gone just like that.

Later that night I told my husband, “you need to get to chapter two and then we’ll talk.”  Ok, chapter two got his attention.  Now he complains he’s confused and still thinks he, as the reader, needs more background on the two main characters.  He tells me what he thinks chapter two means and I tell him with a wicked smile, “That’s exactly what the author wants you to think and as for the lives of the two main characters before the beginning of the book, you will just have to wait.” 

I am having a blast watching him try to work it out because honestly what he is feeling is exactly what the author (that’s me!) wants him to feel.  The character is confused and so is he and I can’t wait until the rug gets pulled out from under him (in the story that is) in about two more chapters. 

I have always had difficulty when my writing was criticized.  My mother would tell me she didn’t understand something and I refused to write for days.  I had such a difficult start that too often I doubt my ability, which scares me because I love it so much.  My husband is helping me learn how to field criticism in the safest environment possible and I am so grateful for that and while I know the day may come where I will have to go out and get a real job, my writing is going somewhere.  Someday I will not only be able to say I am a writer but also that I am depression free because I had the confidence and pride in my own abilities and in the gifts the spirits have chosen to give to me.  I will continue to choose the way of my heart, I will work on listening to my spirit teachers and I will strive to be grateful every day for all that I have and all that I am.  There is no room in any grateful heart for depression.

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I have not been depressed for a month and a half, not at all.  I was exultant when I sent my query to my first agent, disappointed in myself for the mistakes I found in the first three chapters AFTER I sent said query, crazy stressed with too much to do and not enough time to do it in, regretful when I said something stupid, proud that I followed my heart, exhausted while making untold batches of Easter cookies, rejuvenated at yoga and peaceful with an inner knowing that where I am is where I am supposed to be, but depression has been ignored and turned away as it stood knocking on the door the one time it tried to darken my front steps.

A therapist I once worked with told me that depression is inclined to become a habit.  It is the “go to” emotion when we don’t allow our bodies to feel other feelings like anger, frustration, disappointment, or sadness because society frowns upon negative expression.  It is where we find ourselves when we refuse the experiences of happiness, joy, exuberance, or contentment because we believe we don’t deserve them or that they are too fickle to be depended upon.  Depression is the black hole where all our other emotions are obscured because we don’t like them, fear them or distrust them. 

After writing 7-8 hours a day for close to six weeks straight I came to a screeching halt after I pressed the send button.  I will have to wait six weeks for a reply or lack thereof to move on to the next step.  I was exuberant with the knowledge that I had listened to my heart’s calling and I was completely confident that eventually my mental follow through will lead me to where I am supposed to be.  Then I recalled how spiritual journeys are never easy and thought, “oh boy, this is just the next beginning.  I am in so much trouble.”  I then went crazy; between premenopausal insanity, too many commitments at one time and a transition I should’ve seen coming I was flooded with emotions that sent me out of control for three days straight, (a funny story for another day.)

Monday morning I woke up and everything was back in place.  I made time for yoga.  I went organic grocery shopping, washed the kitchen floor, cleaned the bathroom and did laundry.  In the afternoon I got the kids off the bus and played with them, I made a balanced supper, listened to their tales of the day and read to them before I kissed them good night. Finally I have time to fit in those other parts of my life.  Ok so maybe I haven’t found the dining room table yet but there’s time now.  It’s not that writing is totally on hold.  I still have corrections to make, new query letters to draft, three blogs a month to write and a story to abridge for my youngest daughter’s class but it wasn’t until the pell-mell writing jag was done  that I was able to see how imbalanced I had been and how much I liked not only that time but this time. 

My plan is to be a writer (preferably a writer who brings in some sort of revenue) and if this is my plan then this will be my life.  I will start a new book, research, begin the writing, get to the point where I will need to finish within a time frame, and then send the copy off to the agent, publisher or editor and wait.  My life will follow this pattern of planning, research, writing, writing like crazy, send, wait, repeat and honestly, I adore every single part of the process.  At first my mind reeled at the sudden change of pace but then I stopped long enough to embrace the time of rejuvenation, the time to get myself, my life and my family back in balance.  This “down time” is not a break.   It is an essential part of my writing process.  It is where I reexamine my spiritual beliefs, reconnect with who I am and open myself up to new lessons.  Those lessons change, morph and become the themes in my novels, and lead me to the next story which begins the cycle all over again.  I’m in a new place right now and this place excludes depression and embraces all those other emotions that come along in this life.  It is exciting, crazy, and joyful along with sad, disappointing and frustrating, but if I allow myself to feel the bad I also allow myself to experience the good.

Have I kicked the depression habit for good?  I don’t know.  I guess only time will tell but when I look back at the last six weeks I feel light.  I feel free.  Like the wings of my life have taken a huge beat, filled with air and are ready to fly.   It’s exciting to be on the edge of anticipation.  My senses are awake.  I am present and trying to keep my eyes and heart open for the next lesson and the next story.  So listening to my heart paid off.  It brought me to this moment and for now I am content.  Granted in four weeks with no response I will be a total nutjob, but for right now I am blessed with peace, a sense of place and the satisfaction that when you listen to your heart everything eventually falls to where it is supposed to be, including depression, outside and alone on the cold doorstep.  Yeah!

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Ring, Ring

I’m a little behind.  I try to do three posts a month but this month between being sick, February vacation, and basically ignoring any bit of spiritual growth that might have transpired I feel like I have nothing to write about and now I am on the last few days trying to get all three posts in.  I almost gave up.  I almost said, “Oh well if I don’t have anything, who cares?  It doesn’t matter that I only have two posts for February?”  Then I remembered, I wrote 50 thousand words in a month.  If I can do that I can certainly make three posts in 29 days.  It’s funny how participating and accomplishing the Novel Writers Challenge has pushed me on in other things.  So I hunkered down and decided to write about writing.

You’ve heard of people who get “the call.”  You know those people that somehow know they are destined to be a nun, a priest, a reverend or something along those lines, but I think there are other calls.  We are called to do good, to eat well, to do something nice for someone else.  It seems to be less of a call and more of a force compelling one to do what some higher power wants you to do, even if that power is simply your very own heart.  My desire to write is more than something I do for entertainment.  I spend a lot of time trying to complete all the other things that need to be done before I sit down and write that sometimes I go for days or weeks without writing anything more than “milk and eggs” on the grocery list.   One day, as I was ignoring my heart’s ache for my word processing program, it sort of hit me straight on; It is absolutely ridiculous to NOT do what your heart and soul are calling you to do. 

There are days I wish I had a different calling, particularly when laundry is piling up around my ears.  For some cleaning the house cleans out the cobwebs of their mind, for others working out makes their bodies strong so they are better able to face the world, maybe some people nurture animals or children in order to fill their hearts and return love.   If I was called to work out or clean at least I would have a clean house or better body.  My call causes me to sit for hours on end, some days I forget to eat, others I manage to get a couple loads of laundry in, but when I write everything inside me falls into place.  Even a simple blog post gives me an afternoon of contentment that I carry around with me as I tackle the rest of my chores.   I write because it explores all the shadows inside me and brings them into the light.  Writing fills my soul so I can go on to nurture and give to others. 

Does everyone get a call?  I don’t know.  I do know my oldest daughter will complain when she hasn’t been able to sit and write for a while, even if it’s only a silly story just for fun.  If she goes too long her soul gets sad and cranky.  I’ve experienced my 8 year old’s frustration when the computer doesn’t cooperate and she can’t work on her latest story.  So I guess they either got the call or I infected them with my bug.  My husband who is a practical man literally gets strange calls on his cell phone from people who simply need a friend or a prayer.  I think it’s rather amazing that his calls are tailored to his literal nature where mine start out as soft whispers to my heart and then become agonizing screams of need if I ignore them for too long.  If the universe can actually make a cell phone ring it must be capable of sending out messages to more than just my family.

So what forms do your calls come in?  Are they soft like a spring breeze?  Or billboards on the highway?  Can they be ignored, or do they cause immense heartache when you don’t listen?  Do we shut them up with alcohol or food or distract ourselves from the screaming with TV and computer games?  The real question is why do we ignore them?  It’s like dieting I know I feel so much better when I eat healthy and yet I don’t.  I know I feel better when I go to yoga but I can barely make my one class a week.  Why do we ignore the very things that make us feel good and put us in balance?  Then again maybe it’s just me in the padded self-sabotage room and everyone else is out there doing fine.  I guess it’s normal to feel alone when something seems strange and out of the ordinary but then again, I got a call, so I guess I’m not as alone as I think I am.

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And I am back.  I wrote 50 thousand words in a month!  Well actually I wrote 25 thousand in 27 days and the last 25 in three and it was amazing!  So for the  month  of November I had been substituting at the middle school pretty much every day and every day I calculated how many words I was short.  I even did a math lesson on it.  I had to get creative.  I started writing on the weekends.  I started writing in the car, when someone else was driving of course.  I outlined and researched while waiting for the bus, watching karate, and observing gymnastics.  I planned dialogue while driving.  No I did not get into an accident. 

Then Thanksgiving came and I stalled.  I just couldn’t get into writing while we were away.  My goal was to have 30 thousand by the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  That would leave me 10 thousand for Monday and ten for Tuesday.  I’ve written ten thousand in a day. I could do it.  By Sunday I had 28,000 and it was midnight.  On Monday I was only at 35 thousand.  I had barely written 7 thousand words the whole day!  I wasn’t going to make it.  I was disappointed.  Then I was resolute.  No I wasn’t going to give up.  I set this goal and I was going to follow it through.

I stayed up until almost 2am on Monday and wrote like a mad woman all day Tuesday.  My husband was away so suppers were easy and the house was a mess and I wrote.  Surprisingly I was not as disorganized as I thought I would be.  The kids had clean laundry, breakfast and lunch were prepared every morning and aside from Chinese food on Monday and leftovers on Tuesday the kids were fed well, they were clean and went to school with matching clothes.  I even managed to do my daughter’s hair every morning. 

I was up every night until at least 1am and awake every morning at 5 and I wasn’t tired.  I was in the same position for three days straight living on coffee and Aleve and it felt great.  The story was amazing; the writing was satisfying and when I hit 50,000 words at 9:20 am on Wednesday morning I screamed, texted my daughter and slapped the table.  I had done it.  I uploaded my novel to www.nanowrimo.org and was never so happy or proud to see the little purple bar declare me a winner.  I had set a goal and did it.  I just might have what it takes to become a writer after all.  With determination, hard work and an absolute love for my craft I am going to make this dream come true.  I am going to continue to build the foundation underneath my dream and one day I am going to be an author.  This is where I’m going.  This is where I’ll be.  This is who I am. 

You can go to www.nanowrim.org and check out the talent and humor of hundreds of writers who were also crazy enough to write their hands off.  If you find Mrs. W, that’s me, you can check out my synopsis and read an exerpt from my book.  Maybe next year you’ll decide to join the fun.  I might just be crazy enough to do it again. 

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