Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What I Learnt On My Irish Vacation

The Cliffs of Moher
1.  I do not know what old is…We asked about the age of a cathedral and the guide said “It’s new, built in the 18th century...”
2.  If you have trouble immediately knowing your right from your left, it is exponentially exacerbated when you drive on the left-hand side of the road and are asked which way to turn next…I said the wrong direction 1,254 times. 
3.  Irish people are some of the friendliest people in the whole wide world.
4.  I do not like straight whisky.
5.  I do, however, like Irish coffee.
6.  Lambs are pure joy.  I’m convinced they set the standard for joy when God first created joy.
7.  Sheep run from the sound of a human voice.
8.  You don’t have to pay the VAT tax as a tourist…you can apply to get all taxes paid back to you.  
9.  “Half eight” is not four.  It is 8:30.
10.  Irish people eat a lot of “chips”…otherwise known as french fries.  They serve them with everything…even pizza.  Chips are called crisps.
11.  If it’s raining now, it won’t be in a wee bit.
12.  The Easter Rising for Ireland’s independence was 100 years ago…we went to a centenary celebration and learnt so much.
13.  An Irish breakfast is heavy on the protein…translation:  so much meat.
14.  Most Irish children are not chained to “entertainment”.  We spent several hours outside (rain and sunshine) at the Easter Rising celebration with many speeches and lots of music.  Literally hundreds of children of all ages played and chased and entertained themselves and we did not see a tablet or phone filled with games, babysitting a single child.  It was refreshing.
15.  Irish people are not afraid to talk to strangers…they will stop you in the street to chat.  I met a few characters that will most certainly appear in my writing someday.
16.  Castles are everywhere…in sheep fields, on the side of a winding road, in the yard of a more modern house…We imagined people saying, “I have an abandoned castle in my yard, no big deal”
17.  The Irish brogue is beautiful.
18.  The Irish love America…Americans…all things American.
19.  Irish people look surprised when you tell them what a beautiful country they have.  I suppose if you’ve lived there forever and have admired photos of other places, you might forget.
20.  Early barrel makers are some of the hardest-working people on earth…learnt that at the Guiness Storehouse.
21. Irish people love sweets.
22.  They do not, however, put maple syrup on their pancakes…and they eat a lot of pancakes.
23.  There is no definable border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.  You just arrive.  You can tell you’re there when the currency changes from Euro to Pound Sterling. 
24.  The conflicts in Belfast are still brewing right under the surface.  I understand it a bit better after taking a black cab tour around the “troubled” area.  It was eye-opening. 
25.  The Titanic museum in Belfast is worth every red pence.
We had a fabulous trip...we fell in love with Ireland.  We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to visit! 
*Learnt is an Irish/English word for those cringing spelling/grammar nazi''s okay... :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why I'm writing a novel...

 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John 21:25

I stumbled upon this verse this morning.  And by stumbled upon, I mean I was looking something up and mistook a two for a five and read John 21:25 instead of John 21:22. 
This was a blessing to my heart.
Because as I near the end of writing the first rough draft of my novel, I am filling in blanks and finding that some of the threads woven through my story do not answer the question "Why are you writing this?"
Why am I writing a novel titled:  The Grace Writers?
Because I am a recipient of lavish grace.
Because I want others to know the grace that is available to them.
Because I want to illustrate (with words) that nobody can out-sin grace.
Because I love the Lord so much, I can't keep this knowledge to myself.
Because I love people so much, I can't keep this knowledge to myself.
THAT is why I'm writing my (and by my, I mean His) novel.
And then this by mistake...but exactly what I needed to read.
This is why I'm writing...
I'm writing just one of the books that will tell of some of the things Jesus has done...
One of the books with some of the things, 
Because if they were all written down, the whole world would not have room for them. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Favorite Line From a Movie...(don't judge me...)

“What is your favorite line from a movie?”
            The prompt was given at a writing class I attended at the community college.  I chose my line, wrote my essay and then hesitated to read it.  As luck, or rather, misfortune would have it, I was the last to share.  Everyone else in the class had profound quotes from classic movies.  Their quotes had deep philosophical meaning, intellectual and influential.  The lines were serious…with political or moral significance.  Mine was from a chick flick with little depth.  As each person shared, I wondered how to share my line without appearing goofy or worse, stupid.  Then I began plotting how to get out of sharing at all.  I could say I drew a blank, except others had seen me writing feverishly during the exercise.   Darn.  It was my turn.  I decided to own my favorite line and be proud.  Who cares what anyone else thinks, right?  And so I read:
            "My favorite line from a movie is:  'Everyone is Tad Hamilton to somebody.” 
            A few of my classmates chuckled.  I continued:
            "As my kids began dating and thinking about finding “the one”, we discovered the movie Win a Date With Tad Hamilton.  In a light and breezy way, the assumption that only the most handsome or beautiful win the girl or guy is unequivocally blasted to rubble.
            Our hero Pete, is in love with the unassuming (and beautiful) Rosalee, who wins a date with a movie star, Tad Hamilton.  As a romance ensues, Pete tries desperately to win her heart as the virile Tad has only to wink and cause hearts to melt like butter on a sweet roll.
            Whan Rosalee seemingly chooses Tad forever, Pete seeks the advise of a barmaid who has always flirted with Pete, pining for his heart.  Hearing his plight and knowing without a doubt that she will not win him, she confesses that Pete is her Tad Hamilton.  Pete is surprised and humbled.  Then the line:  “Everyone is Tad Hamilton to somebody”. 
            Her words give him courage and he runs to Rosalee and declares his love but she rejects him and runs off with the movie star.  All hope seems lost, but as with all good stories, in the end, Rosalee realizes that the real Tad Hamilton is all buff and fluff but Pete has been her true love all along.  The movie ends with a sappy dance in the rain, and the confirmation that sometimes the good guy does win the girl." 
            When I finished reading, red-faced, I sensed understanding in my classmates.  It's a familiar angst.  The doubt, the feeling that we're not good enough, the intimidation and finally, hopefully, the realization that we are loved, we are enough, made to be who we are meant to be.  After all, it's true, you know..."Everyone is Tad Hamilton to somebody."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My ABC's of Thankfulness...

Thought I'd make a list of some of the things I'm thankful for this year...

A:  Alex – For 32 years I’ve known this man of mine and I’m thankful that we’ve weathered the storms to celebrate our 31st Thanksgiving as husband and wife!  I love him.
B:  Belonging – I’m thankful that I belong.  To my family, to a church, to my friends, to a community of writers, to a community of artists, and most importantly, to God.
C:  Christina – My first-born (by a minute).  I am so proud of the woman she has become, the wife, the encourager, the athlete.  She’s an adventurous and creative soul who loves God with her whole heart.  I love her.
D:  Dad – My dad has had a rough year.  His body is aging and unwell, his mind and spirit are sharper than ever.  His love and caring doesn’t wane even when his health does.  I love him.
E:  Emily – My baby.  She is a brave and faith-filled soul whose biggest desire is to serve the Lord with her life.  She makes me laugh.  She’s comfortable with all kinds of people and loves them deeply.  I love her.
F:  Friendship – What would I do without my friends, old and new…young and old?  They challenge me, encourage me, stretch my faith and I love them.
G:  Generators – For the first time last week, we experienced the convenience of having a generator during a power outage and we’re never going back. 
H:  Health – I’m thankful for good health…and health challenges…because both highlight how important life is…how important it is to live our one precious life to the fullest every day.
I:  Ice Cream:  It’s my favorite.  So many flavors, so much to love.  Peanut Butter and Chocolate is my favorite…wait, no, Cappuccino Chip…no, it’s Rocky Road…never mind.  If it’s frozen, full of fat and covered in hot fudge, I’m in love. 
J:  Jacob – My first/middle born. He is ambitious and generous and athletic.  He’s so, so smart.  He is just enough crazy to make him a whole lot of fun.  His faith is important to him and his love for his family and friends runs deep.  I love him.
K:  Kranky cat – Lola may be cranky, she may embarrass me with her rude behavior to visitors, she may leave her hair on everything, but she’s sweet…to us…no one else will ever understand.
L: Ladies – The ladies.  I love their quirkiness, their stupidity, their beautiful feathers and their eggs.  They inspire me to be smarter.
M:  Mom – Mom is a rock.  This year she’s struggled with her own health issues all the while helping Dad wade through his.  She is an encourager and an real-life example of how God can make beauty from ashes.
N:  Nieces and Nephews – I have the most incredible nieces and nephews…they make me laugh and fill my world with fun!  I love them.
O:  Opus – My opus is my novel…I have fallen in love with imaginary friends and a story that will be completed, by the end of this year or early 2016.  I’m thankful for the light at the end of a very long journey.
P: Plays – I love plays…the theater.  I’m thankful for each and every play I’ve been privileged to see this year.  The art of live performance takes my breath away.  Amazing.
Q:  Quiet – In my empty nest, there is quiet.  It’s taken me a while to grow to love it.  Now I do.  I love the quiet of being alone…of being okay with being alone.  It is good.
R:  Roaming – I love to roam…to travel…to explore new places and see new things.  I’m thankful that we are able to roam and that even though our kids are far from us, we can roam on over to see them.
S:  Siblings – I love my sister and brother…and their spouses.  I am so thankful that over the years, we’ve grown closer.  I love them as siblings, as people and would choose them as friends…they’re amazing. 
T:  The other Jacob (Jake) – I’m thankful for my daughter’s husband Jake.  He’s a good man.  He just fits.  He’s smart and adventurous and loves my daughter with his whole heart.  I love him.
U:  Underserved favor – Grace.  Underserved favor. I’m thankful for the grace that has saved me from my sin, given freely to all who believe in Christ, and the daily grace that I experience both from God and those around me.  I don’t deserve it.  So thankful.
V:  Visitors – I love it when people from far away visit…specifically my children, but also my friends.  It is so good to hug them, to catch up, to just be with them, hearing their stories and getting to love on them in person!
W:  Writing – I love to write.  I love the feeling of taking the thoughts, or stories, or ideas out of my imagination, out of my heart, and placing them word by word onto paper…or a computer screen.  It’s magic.  It’s therapy.  It’s a gift.
X:  Xtra Shot or Xtra cup – Because a latte isn’t a latte without an extra shot of espresso…and an extra cup of joe in the morning is just a little bit of heaven.
Y:  Yoga – I’ve discovered yoga this year…specifically, Yoga with Adrienne (youtube).  She’s wonderful.  She understands that some of us can’t do the flying eagle upside down dawg where you balance on your pinkie finger while touching your toes to your nose…and that makes twisting into a pretzel a whole lot more palatable.

Z:  Zzzzzzz – I’m thankful for the occasional good night’s sleep…because they’re few and far between (thank you menopause, you dirty rotten #$%*)…so when I’m given the gift of a good night’s sleep, I’m thankful.  Very thankful.

What are you thankful for?

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Conflict of Conflict...

I'm relatively new to this novel-writing thing.
Granted, I've always loved writing, but to write a novel has always been something "real" writers do.
Calling myself a writer has always been a struggle.
I've been writing this novel for about three years now.
Really, purposefully, creating a story.
I like my characters very much.
I love them, actually.
They're lovable, interesting, fun...
and boring.
I loved them so much, I didn't want any harm to come to them.
That's a problem.
For the past couple of months, I've been stuck.
Stuck in the muck of "why isn't this working"?
I have a map of where my story will go, I like where it ends, but I was taking the long, comfortable route with potty stops and 5-star restaurants along the way.  We all like to travel in style, am I right?
First class all the way, baby!
So I remained stuck.
No one grew, everyone just moved along enjoying each others company.  

And then it struck me.

Novel writing is a lot like mothering. 
If I protect my children from everything that *might* harm them, their lives will be lived in a cocoon.  They won't try anything new because I'm afraid they might get hurt, or worse, get their precious feelings hurt.
That's no way to parent.
Kids grow through conflict.
Kids learn by doing.  
Kids learn through failure...and success.  
They learn who they can trust by putting themselves out there and getting burned.
They experience loss and learn to cope.
They drop into an unmarked pit and are forced to find a way to dig themselves out.
A hovering parent produces a stagnant kid.
A hovering writer produces a boring book.

So yesterday, I kissed all of my characters on the head and told them I loved them.
Then I dropped them into a deep, deep hole.
They all fell in.
Every single one of them.
Together, and separately.
Their fears are swirling around them and they're searching for a way out.
I have the luxury of knowing what's next for them...mostly.
I might leave a couple of them in the pit longer than others.
But as a mother, er...a writer, I know this is for their own good.
It hurts me to see them like this right now, 
But in a few chapters, I know they'll be better for it.
They'll suffer...
They'll heal...
and they'll grow...
And their story just got more interesting because conflict is inevitable.  We've all been there.  And a story, a life without conflict is colorless and barren.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy New Year!

I love fall...
I love anticipating fall.
I love back-to-school, which is ironic because I didn't like school when I was a kid.
When school supplies arrived on store shelves a pit would carve itself into my stomach.
When my kids were in school, fall marked the end of summer.
I thoroughly enjoyed having the kids at home all summer.
Summer days were filled with activities, day trips and crafts.
I also enjoyed watching the bus whisk them away at the end of it.
Now that they're grown and gone, I still look forward to fall.
To me, back-to-school is the new year.
Even more than January 1st.
I don't really care about January 1st.  But the first day of school, that's when I begin to take stock.

Maybe it's my love of school supplies.
I always slipped a few things in the cart for myself when the kids were little and now, I have no reason whatsoever to visit the school supplies section.
Why would I set foot in aisles filled with shopping cart jams and whining children?
Because, to me, it's fresher than a farmer's market.
Blank pages...
Fresh pens...
Glue...what will the glue be tasked to do?
Pencils and erasers...they smell so good.
Elements of learning and possibilities of genius.

I fall clean as well.  Some people spring clean...and maybe I should do a deep clean then too, don't judge me.
But I realize that we've been tracking dirt in the house all summer.
I love to garden, so it's an issue.
We will likely be stuck in the house more often during the winter, so I want to make it sparkling clean and pleasantly inhabitable.
So I clean.

And then there's the typical resolutions of every student:
"This year I will do my best, I will not procrastinate, I will get straight A's."
I'm not attending school, but I'm always learning.
I have things to do.
I want to do them well.
So I vow to myself to focus.
That's my constant resolution:
I tend to flit from one thing to another.
Not a bad thing, but not terribly effective in finishing projects in a timely manner.
So I resolve to focus.
Every single fall...
This fall is no different...

Then there's the baking, the pumpkins, the weather, the wind, the rain, the cold...
The cozy clothes.
I just love it all.

So Happy New Year my friends.
Enjoy the beauty of the season!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Writing Conference Report...

I recently attended my very first writing conference.
I've been putting it off.
Mostly due to my lack of believing I'm a writer.
And the fact that I haven't finished my novel.
Turns out, that doesn't matter.
I turned in the first 10 pages of my unfinished novel to be reviewed by a couple of agents.
I brought two of my children's books.
I brought several of my devotionals.
And I put my big girl panties on and decided to be brave.

We arrived and I immediately checked in for the boot camp.
A crash course in social media and establishing your platform...
My platform...
I've never considered a platform something to have...I, okay, gotta work on that.
I realized that I have a lot of work to do in addition to actually writing my novel!
Then we dove into the classes and workshops and lunches and dinners and meetings and panels...
It was 3 1/2 days of constant, unending inspiration and information.
I was overwhelmed.
But I learned so very much...
I learned something that will stay with me and shape my writing from this point on.

Some set up...
My underlying premise for writing is to share my faith.
I want to entertain.
I want to inspire.
I want to provide fun in word form.
Ultimately, though, I want to offer hope...I want to offer the possibility of salvation from hopelessness.
At least I thought I did.

The first day was a little discouraging.
Between a non-review of my novel manuscript - "Keep going."
I felt discouraged.  I wanted something more...even a negative bit of advice...tear it apart...I've never done this, give me something to grasp and learn from...
Nope, I doubt the first agent had even read it.
And, really, I've heard agents don't want to be bothered with unfinished manuscripts, what if it's never finished?
But this was a conference, where people come to learn, so I learned that it's's not worth their time.
Then I approached an editor to see if I could pitch a couple of devotionals (a huge risk for me...I don't just approach people...I don't just jump out of proverbial airplanes without a parachute!)
She told me that I had written for the parent and she was looking for parenting advise in dealing with children...not encouragement for parents.
Good to harm, no foul.  She was very nice.  I didn't lose any blood.
Then we had dinner with an editor.
Editors and agents host tables at these conferences and you sit and eat with them as if they're normal people.  (Turns out they are!)
We were going around the table sharing what we like to write and one of the things I shared is that I love to write encouragement for moms...among a host of other subjects.
"Moms don't read" was the editor's reply.
"I did" interjected one woman.
"You're the exception." he replied.
He's right, you know.  They're busy wiping bottoms and noses!
So the discouragement settled right into my heart.
Maybe this writing gig isn't for me, I thought.
Maybe I'm not meant to be an author.
Maybe I'm not good enough.

And then we settled in for our keynote address from a pastor in California.
His message:
Write as worship.
My heart soaked those three words into its core.
And God spoke to my spirit.
You are not writing for you, you're writing for Me.

My heart shifted and discouragement packed its bags and left the building.
Material success and accolades weren't important, joy was what I sought.
The joy comes in writing the words for the glory of my Savior.
So the conference continued into the second day and the third.
I had meetings with editors and sold some devotionals.
I received another review of my novel that offered critique and encouragement.
"Interesting character and the writing is good"
Thank you.
I pitched my children's books and the agent liked them.
My heart was encouraged.

So, the take-away for me is that when my heart is wholly focussed on the One who gave me every ability that I possess, I will find success.
Success is defined by the amount of joy in my heart, not the dollars in my pocket or my name on the cover of a book.

*The inspiration I soaked up from that conference has sparked such a flood of words since my return from my vacation.  I feared all of the information was dumped somewhere in Yellowstone National Park, but it's still knocking around in my noggin!  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to learn from well-known authors and editors.  They were so generous with their knowledge and experience.  So, so grateful!