Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Starting Over...


I've been writing a novel...
There, I said it.
I've started it over 3 times...
No, as of this week, 4.
Here's why:
1.  Perfectionism
2.  Discontentment
3.  Lots of prayer
4.  The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
Every time I start over - mind you, it's the same exact story, just tweaked.
I think "This is it!  I've got it this time!"
And I do until I decide I don't.
So THIS time, I've really got it.
I KNOW it this time!
I understand that this is typical writer behavior.
My situation is not unique...
which is encouraging.
I want to tell a story that will resonate...
That has a message...
That brings joy...
Mostly, though, I want to write the story I'm meant to write.
How vague is that?
Dang vague.
So here I go again...5,000 words in to version #4.
How many versions will there ultimately be?
In what year will I finally finish this work of my heart?
I don't know.
If I have my way, before I turn 50.
Wait.  That's just crazy.
But don't writers have to be a little crazy?
Excuse me, I need to get busy...

PS - If you're a writer-type, I highly recommend The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman...even though it caused me a lot of extra work!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Yoga with Adriene and Heather...


I recently met Adriene...
She has never met me, however.
We do yoga together.
Well, I do yoga with her.
She does yoga with EVERYONE!
I used to run...
I hope to run again, but I can't at the moment.
I am some sort of injured...
Tight, annoyed hip flexors and hamstrings will not...will NOT relax.
Could be the amount of sitting on my bum I've been doing...writing...
But I digress.
I've been doing less sitting lately and more moving and I think we're making some headway
Which brings me back to yoga with Adriene.
I never really considered yoga.
I am the world's most inflexible person.
(No, you're not, I am.)
Touch my toes?  Nope.
So when I was doing physical therapy (yes, it's that bad),
The PT gal pointed out that what she was teaching me was very yoga-ish.
Enter Adriene...
I did the 20-minute beginner video first.
It was sort of fun.
And stretchy.
It felt good to stretch like that.
And she's fun to listen to as I'm yoga-ing.
There's a lingo I don't know.
"Back to center"
"Your yoga practice"
"Create space in the body"
"Checking in with _____ (the neck, the feet, the wrists, the breath, the body)"
"Come into the moment with integrity, whatever that means to you"
"Anjali Mudra"
So many other Sanskrit terms that I cannot remember, nor pronounce...yet.
But I like it...I do.
I'm learning to relax my body and mind...
I use the time to pray a little...when I'm not checking my computer screen to make sure I'm doing it right.
I think it's getting easier.
I'm not tipping over as much.
That's good, right?
And I think I'm getting a little bit stronger.
Maybe working my way back to a bit of jogging...maybe by summer.
Fingers crossed...
Nice long breath in,
Nice long juicy exhale out...
Namaste.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Writing Grace...

          It never ceases to amaze me.  A group of women enter a room.  Friends, acquaintances, and strangers.  The introductions begin and the familiar walls are erected.  Automatic self-protection.  We all do it.  Leading with our best foot.  Nothing wrong with that…
            But then the magic happens.  A woman begins to read.  It could be a work of non-fiction, a tale of real-life.  A moment of grace, a moment of fear, a time of great joy, a description of her life or an odd observation.  It could be a story of fiction.  A made-up tale of fantasy or hilarity or great mystery.  Whatever she reads, it is an intimate piece of her mind and heart.  She is in those words.  She is unveiled, unguarded and exposed…literarily naked.  She reads the words out loud and the words bless the ones who hear. The women are united by words, and as the women read, strangers and acquaintances dissolve into friends.
            The thing is, in our day to day, we aren’t always honest.  We put on a mask for those we don’t know.  We want to be accepted, to belong.  But writing…writing has a way of peeling away the layers of polish.   It’s hard to write and leave yourself out of it.  Our inner voice is always exposed.  Our characters take on our fears and angst.  They find humor in what we find funny, they are pieces of us and bits of our experiences.  So we expose ourselves.  We lay bare who we are in words and phrases until we finish reading, put down our paper and look up.  What do we expect to see in the faces of those who listen?  Blank stares?  Probably.  We never expect to be understood. 
            I usually start my reading with a disclaimer:  “I didn’t take a lot of time on this” or “This is just sort of rough and dumb”.  A way of softening the expectation. 
            But I look up from my page and I see knowing.  Relating.  Relief.  Faces that say “I’m not alone.  I’m not weird.  I’m okay.”
            Walls crumble.
            Bridges are built.
            Perfection is annihilated.
            And women are united in the truth that none of us have it all together, nor are we expected to.  God fills in the gaps with grace.  We are all gaping examples of grace.  And it’s all good. 
            That’s what writing is to me…what belonging to a writing group has done for me.  It isn’t really about writing well or writing books or gathering compliments or even being heard.  It’s about sharing.  Connecting.  Growing.  Empowering. 
            Sharing our hearts.
            Connecting with other women.
            Growing in faith and confidence.
            Empowering our witness to the world through the written word.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Merry Simplicity...

          In Olympia, on Christmas eve, if you go anywhere outside of your home, there is a harried rush of last minute activity.  Shoppers dart from store to store buying gifts they’ll realize they didn’t need and grocery aisles are a traffic jam of carts filled with the leftovers of tomorrow. 
           This Christmas eve we travelled to Regensburg to shop at a Christmas market we had read about.   We parked our car and began a walk through the narrow streets.  The first thing I noticed was the lack of activity.  The streets were empty.  No one was out.  Restaurants were shuttered, only a few shop doors were open.  The Christmas market, advertised online to be open until 2pm, was partially disassembled… empty.  We passed few people as we made our way by orange and blue and yellow painted buildings. The carved stone facades framed rounded old wood doors with hand-wrought iron handles.  We relished the architecture and marveled that the buildings we passed were older than any we’d ever seen in our young country! 
            As we toured the still, quiet city, our bellies began to rumble.  Deciding to go to the next open restaurant, we found ourselves in a small café with tiny tables and tall chairs.  The menu was entirely in German, no two-word quasi-English hint as to what each item was.  So we ordered blindly, looking around at the plates of those around us.  It was a true culinary adventure as the waitress brought plates of cheeses, meats, breads, and sauces – among them, a spiced honey, a fresh strawberry jam and spicy mustard.  There were a couple of bowls of soup as well.  We had a tasty meal and left the café filled with good, new food.
            As we walked back to the car, we passed a brass band playing Christmas carols.  A few onlookers had gathered, the most people we had seen all day.  It was very interesting how the German people had holed themselves into their homes on Christmas eve…probably preparing for the big day, or simply spending time with family.  Even though we didn’t get to go to the Christmas market we had looked forward to, I was satisfied.  I liked the quiet…the simple white lights strung from buildings across cobbled streets were evidence that Christmas was celebrated and loved.  I didn’t miss the hurried hubbub of shoppers.
            Back in Velberg, we took a walk through town as the sun set.  We were mostly alone, a few dogs wandered and a man swept his porch.  We smiled a greeting as we passed.  The narrow cobblestone streets wound through a tangle of buildings, most with a shop or restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above.  In the doorways of each were simple Christmas decorations consisting of twigs, logs, wood stars, mercury glass globes, red berries and a candle in a lantern, glowing with soft light.  Communal living is the standard in Germany and each porch hugged the street, leaving no room for fancy decorations, if the inhabitants had even wanted such a gawdy display.  The décor was much different than the shiny, colorful, cartoony décor of home.  A nativity scene in a window, unpainted wood ornaments, candles, greenery, white lights.  Simplicity reigned.  Much like the simplicity of the first Christmas.  Just a stable and some hay…a king in a manger.  Plain but profound. 
            I think I may pare back my Christmas décor after experiencing Germany at Christmas time.  The spare, natural way they celebrate is very appealing.  The way they finished their hustle and settled in to celebrate was sweet with solitude.  At first, a little haunting, but ultimately, serene and more conducive to worship and honor of the real meaning of the season. 
            Christmas in Germany was less than what I expected yet ultimately exactly what I wanted…to appreciate the purity of what Christmas is really about.  To celebrate the beauty and grace of all that God has given us in his Son and His creation.    
         

Monday, January 12, 2015

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation...



·      Took my virgin trip across the pond.
·      Got a stamp in my passport.
·      Became a foreigner.
·      Schlepped too much luggage on planes, trains and automobiles.
·      Dealt with MRSA.
·      Ate 1,279 pretzels and pastries and STILL lost 3 pounds.
·      Made my first Prime Rib and nailed it!
·      Made Christmas dinner using only the tools a typical bachelor would have on hand…translate:  spoons and knives and a whisk.  Super thankful for the whisk.
·      Climbed into the turret of a castle and surveyed the kingdom.
·      Trespassed at Neuschwanstein castle.
·      Witnessed an epic fall in which the fall-ee held a cup of coffee and did not spill a single drop.
·      Looked up “What to do if someone goes missing in a foreign country” on my iphone.
·      Nearly caused a coup.
·      Discovered Ouzo…a greek licorice liquor (yum)…and “took care of” all rejected shots.  *hiccup*
·      Pointed out 1,369,254 dips, divots, lips and holes to my folks as we walked the cobbled streets of Europe.
·      Cursed the European design of threshold unevenness as I stubbed my toe for the 154th time.
·      Said “Danke” in France and “Merci” in Germany and said “Thank you” in Prague because I could never remember to say “dejuki” (pronounced dye-quee).
·      Fell in love with the greeting: “Bonsoire”…it is just beautiful when the French say it…
·      Stepped in countless spit globs on Paris sidewalks.  (gross)
·      Bargained a few deals at the Paris flea market.
·      Imagined the damage I could have done at the flea market if only I had unlimited resources to get the stuff home.
·      Gazed upon the Eiffel tower with awe.
·      Met Mona.
·      Avoided pick pockets.
·      Avoided a terrorist attack.
·      Went to Christmas markets in Paris and Prague…after Christmas.
·      Ate Crème Brulee that just melted on the spot…
·      Went to the Moulin Rouge and caused a small explosion.
·      Had the best meal (goulash) of my life in Prague.
·      Discovered baked fruit tea…oh my…
·      Bought $650 worth of chocolate…when the salesperson in Prague charged my credit card 15,000 crown rather than 1,500 crown…luckily, it did actually come off of my card…whew. 
·      Prayed for the beautiful city of Prague, the most un-churched city in the world with 90% atheism, and a beautiful ancient cathedral on nearly every block.  Amazing.
·      Schlepped our bags home, arriving with them all.
·      Didn’t use a single curse word on the way home even though our flight was diverted and delayed…I thought them…many of them…but didn’t utter them.
·      Marvelled at God’s favor towards us as I came home with a heart full of love and memories of a trip of a lifetime!  So thankful!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Superpowers...

          I don’t mean to brag, but I have several enviable superpowers.  I’ll do my best to share them all with you, but since one of my superpowers is forgetting simple things at inopportune times, I may be prevented from remembering every single one.  On that subject, as I write for this blog or for my novel, I often forget the simplest and most common words.  Just the other day, it took me 10 minutes to think of the word….wait…I can’t remember the word I couldn’t think of the other day.  See?  That’s just one of my many superpowers.
            I can stretch two loads of laundry, a half-day job, into a full week of laundry-induced torture, and STILL not fold the clothes.  That, my friends, takes talent…no…power.  Superpower.  And while I’m on the subject of laundry, I have a distinct superpower that allows me to avoid ironing.  I can manipulate my dryer’s power to perform ironing duties for me.  Only on the most special occasions, does my iron come out of the cupboard…and it is brief and only used to impress…as well as press.
            I am frequently stunned to realize that my husband will be home in 15 minutes and I haven’t given a single thought to dinner.  I have a superpower that allows me to think of something to make for dinner, and have that dinner on the table shortly after his arrival, using meat I’ve pulled from the freezer to do it.   He will compliment me on the meal, not having a clue there was no thought of it 20 minutes before.  
            I have the innate ability to choose the wrong line in any situation.  When I choose a line it will instantaneously stop moving the moment I position myself in it.  A computer will go down, a cash register will run out of tape, an employee will take a break or a person ahead of me in line will have a problem that will take ten times the average amount of time to resolve.  For example, the other day, I saw a shorter line at the Costco gas station.  I pulled in, feeling smug victory, when I noticed a large gas-guzzling motor home pulling up to the pump ahead of me.  I waited for 10 minutes before switching lines and still beat the motor home to completion.  While I pumped my gas, the lady behind me commented “I can’t believe how quickly the line went today!” I just smiled.  I didn’t mention that I’d spent 10 minutes waiting in another line before choosing that one.  I wouldn’t want to reveal my superpower to just anyone.
            I can find a wonderful thing at a yard sale or thrift shop, hold on to it for years and then in one stroke of genius, create something out of it completely unexpected and cool.  And that’s not all.  I can NOT think of what to do with a thing years after purchasing it, decide to let it go, giving it away to a charity or selling it or throwing it in the garbage.  Then,  days later, in the middle of the night think of the perfect way to re-purpose it and wish I had it again, knowing full well it’s long gone.  I’ve done that over and over – which qualifies as a superpower. 
            Also, where yard sales are concerned, I can recognize valuable items, purchase them for a song and sell them for many times what I paid.  The bakelite jewelry I bought for 75 cents and resold for 400 dollars is an example.  Definitely a superpower.
            I have the ability to get the uncontrollable giggles at the worst possible times.  If a friend is involved, this superpower is magnified 100 times and conversely, friends can turn a superpower into a nemesis.  Somber times are when this superpower can cause great harm…giggles and sobriety do not mix.  Giggles are my kryptonite.
            Even though I am a woman, I have a superpower that crosses the boundaries of gender.  I can grow whiskers.  Not only that, my chin will be as smooth as a baby’s bottom for days on end and then, within hours, two whiskers will grow as though I were a burly mountain man with full beard-growing capabilities.  For this reason, I have to be on guard at all times so that I am not mistaken for a No-Shave November participant.  Although some claim this is a symptom of age, I choose to see it as a superpower.
            I have the ability to completely empty my mind of coherent thought when someone makes a comment that deserves a quick retort.  I will sit there, staring, unable to string two words together until the moment of opportunity has passed.  The conversation will change, the person will leave or I will move on and then it will hit me!  The perfect response.  The most scathing come-back.  The cleverest “gotcha”.   Some may call it “timely come-back disorder”, I choose to see it as a superpower…involuntary self-control.  I’m able to dis-engage my mouth due to my frozen mind.  It’s saved me from plenty of trouble and therefore is one of the superest of powers.
            Finally, I have the superpower of procrastination in every area of my life.  Some would see this as a character flaw and they would be wrong.  When one procrastinates, one must gain talents in other areas such as the speed with which one completes tasks.  The superpower comes into play with the quality of the work that is produced.  I have found that the quality of my work is superior when it is done under the pressure of time.  My brain is super-stimulated and obtains superpower qualities of brilliance.  You might be surprised to know that the bulk of this piece was written this morning as I drank my coffee and wondered why I hadn’t done my writing sooner.  Perhaps it’s the element of regret that adds that extra little je ne sais quoi that is the tipping point of inspiration. 
            While some may think that superpowers have to be of the superhero variety, seeing through walls, invisibilty, the ability to fly and insta-freezing villains, they would be wrong.  They are the little quirks and talents that make you unique.  Things you do without even trying, because superpowers just are.  They are possessed without effort.  A gift.  Embrace them and be SUPER!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Raspberries in November...


Today is/was paint a bench day and garden clean-up day...
It's going to freeze hard this week and the garden is just kaput except for some kale...
So I filled the yard waste bin with all sorts of slimy broccoli stalks...
Black tomato vines...
Pepper plants covered in half-opened blooms...
Which makes me think very highly of peppers...they were willing to go the extra mile...
Give it all they've got...
They had hope...
Albiet false hope...
I gathered up the zucchini vines,
Squash vines...
I found a forgotten slimy onion.  Yuk.
And as I was pulling a pumpkin vine, I noticed that a branch of the vine had taken off on its own and created a very green pumpkin hanging from the fence...well, hello there!
Too bad it won't reach its full potential.
With half of the garden yanked from the ground, the bin was full...
I dragged it to the street, thankful that a machine will dump it into the truck...no person should have to lift that heavy thing...
And as I went to put my gloves back in the shed something red caught my eye.
RASPBERRIES!
In November!?!?
My raspberry vines had saved the best trick for last...
They were tasty, however, the sun hasn't been shining, so they weren't as flavorful as those that ripen in summer...
But I was happy to have a little taste of summer on a day when the last traces of warm days were going into the waste bin...