Thursday, April 30, 2009

Welcoming May

When I opened my curtains this morning, I saw that the buds on the tree outside my window had doubled in size since I last looked. It will have blossoms soon; pink, fragrant, cheery blossoms.
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said
(Philip Larkin, "The Trees")
I can barely believe that May will be here in the morning. Since I began April with the goal of completely editing Full of Days, I do not meet the end of this month with any regret. The manuscript is edited and I am awaiting a decision from a prospective publisher (and praying it is a favorable one). With the arrival of May, I commit myself to three new goals: outlining the plot of The Mercy Hour, writing at least its first three chapters, and reading. Very little reading occurred in April, which is a sad statement for any author to make, no matter how amateur.
Last night I stayed up and wrote the first couple pages of the new novel. While the first lines were difficult to write to my satisfaction, once I got there it was pure joy. The lines of the paragraphs began to flow and I could have kept at it for so much longer than I did. I can't deny that I wasn't feeling thankful for my full-time, 8 to 5 job when I forced myself to stop writing and get some necessary sleep. Since editing is an entirely different ballgame, taking up my pen for this new story was like returning to a much missed, feels-like-home place. As I brought the lead character to life, my mind was excited. The immersion was intoxicating. In numerous circumstances it takes considerable effort to be comfortable and happy in my own skin, but when I write... ah, when I write, I do love being me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Minute Blog

I have two minutes before I need to close up the office and head home. On tonight's docket: planting the daffodils that are blooming in the flimsy plastic holders they came in at the store; gym; more laundry (lately it never ends); writing chapter one of The Mercy Hour (I hope). Someday I'll get around to watching the "Chuck" season finale that was on Monday night.

The Brewers swept their series against Pittsburgh! Which puts them over the .500 mark for the season thus far. Happy about that! Also happy to know I'll see Braden Looper pitch on Saturday. Really didn't want it to be Suppan or Parra.

The sky that was bright and blue all day has suddenly clouded up. I'm not sure what's up with that. Even if it rains I am going to have to plant those flowers. They can't wait any longer.

Okay, I'm out of here. Homeward, I depart!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oodles of Blessings

You know that sunshine I was craving yesterday? It's here! Bright and golden, albeit not too warm yet. I love the sight of it.

My sister, Julie and her family are moving to Wisconsin from Connecticut next month. I never expected for all five of the Ebsch sisters to live in the same area. We haven't even been in the same state since I was three years old, much less within a 90 minute radius of each other. It'll be a great thing to have her, her husband and their two girls nearby. I am hoping it will end up being a great blessing for their little family too. I know the move is a significant change for them, in more ways than one.

This morning I was blessed with laughter because of this:

There are some long running, highly entertaining llama jokes between my roomies and I (which I am unable to effectively explain here or anywhere) but this pic might just top them all. Take a moment and enjoy... don't miss the llamas packed into the back seat... or the question of whether or not the hole in the windshield was put there by a hoof...

Another morning activity was finding material for our handouts at this month's Adult Faith Night. The evening is focused on spiritual warfare. (Yes, that's my morning: llamas and spiritual warfare.) I found and read through a great address by Fr. John Hardon on one of St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises. It was not only ideal for the handouts I need to put together for Thursday but was a faith-bolstering and challenging read for myself as well. I think I need to add the Spiritual Exercises to my ever growing list of spirtuality books to read.

I suppose you could sum up my mood today as glad. I am gladdened by my wonderful family and the promise of true spring outside these office windows. I am gladdened by the time I have this week to develop the first chapters of my new novel. I am gladdened by the knowledge of and faith in God's overwhelming victory over evil and my part in His triumph should I remain faithful and vigilant. All is not perfect. All is not solved or decided. The enemy would have me dwell in what does not gladden me - sources of distress and unrest, conflicts and disappointments. I will not dwell there. While not pretending that everything is right and good, I will also not ignore the abundance of right and good blessings poured over me.

"In the world you will have trouble, but take courage;
I have overcome the world."
(Jesus, John 16:33)

Monday, April 27, 2009


I just ate two pieces of chocolate delivered directly from Switzerland by my boss. Did you know hazelnut chocolate is called Gianduja? I don't care what it's called. It's delicious in any language. I am attempting to resist sneaking a third sample; not sure how long that will last.

Even more than another taste of Swiss chocolate, I am craving sunshine - warm, decadent, golden sunshine. After a weekend of gray rain and temperatures 30 degrees cooler than that summer-tease day we had on Friday, I'm ready for the sun. As is the landscape outside! Thanks to the rain, the trees are laden with buds and the grass is bright green. Everything looks to be on the verge, packaged for opening but still unopened.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rainy Saturday

At my kitchen table sits my grandmother with her crossword puzzle book and me with my manuscript and laptop. Every so often we both glance up from our respective work to watch the cardinals and mourning doves fluttering about in the rain outside. The bird feeder by our deck is nearly empty and I really should venture out and refill it. She's on her third mug of coffee and still her head bobs as she slips into a doze between crossword clues. I can't say I am wishing to be anywhere but here at the moment.

Tonight I'm seeing Matt Maher in concert. He and his band are fantastic and fun, and the other band in the lineup sounds exceptional too. Honestly though, my excitement for tonight isn't so much tied to who is performing but to the chance to worship. I am impatient to sing along, to lift my voice and my hands and close my eyes and praise my God. I miss the Festivals of Praise at FUS and the Masses there with not only beautiful music but a congregation that sang with full voices and hearts. Tonight I will worship in that franciscan fashion that used to characterize my spirituality and which I long to recapture.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tiring of Well-Worn Ways

"When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view." (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

There is a restless uncertainty stirred up in me that I cannot leave unexamined. Six years ago, I graduated from college and moved here to Appleton with my sister, Jessica and one of our closest friends, Amy. The three of us excitely began this new stage of life. I had finished my Theology degree and was determined to start my career; Jess just returned from a year of missionary work in Jamaica and had a nursing job lined up at a hospital here; Amy was moving away from her family and hometown for the first time, with plans to enter college. Everything was new. The potential of the unknown surrounded us on all sides. I am happy to say that in all the ups and downs, the plans that succeeded and the plans that failed, we savored the experience together.

Truth be told, none of my original after-college plans withstood the test of time. I do not work at a Catholic parish or at a retreat center or for a diocese. I am not married. I don't even live on my own. When I graduated and set out to find work as a director of religious education or youth minister, I had no intention of writing a novel within the next few years, and I had no intention of being an adminstrative assistant for the forseeable future. My intentions were specific, and they were wrong. The Lord closed every door I tried to open. He reminded me again and again how even during my studies, I knew in my heart that I was not called to be a DRE or youth minister. I pursued the logical choice because that was far less frightening than not having something specific to pursue. As He closed those doors and I wrestled with discouragement, the ideas began to come. I began to write. I praise Him now for preventing my stubborn, unenlightened plans.

Recalling God's display in these years of His wisdom's superiority over mine, I am left wondering when God will turn me in a new direction again. I question myself, "Where is He leading me now? Does He desire for me to settle in here or am I settling for less than what He has for me?"

Last night, Jess, Amy and I completed an ongoing tradition that began when we moved to Appleton together. It wasn't anything deep or significant to the outsider, but it was a tradition very closely tied to the stage of life we began together six years ago. The emotional effect that its end had on me was a surprise. I thought about those six years, about what has and has not happened, and how all that is now looks so very different from all that was then. Amy has moved back to our home area but is living on her own and establishing a life there. Jess is happier in her job and with herself than she has been since leaving Jamaica. And I... well, I am still writing. My relationship with my family has altered and deepened in ways I didn't expect, and the Lord has stretched and molded me via my life at my parish. The close of our tradition last night has me asking if I shouldn't be so settled here. I certainly long for more, for new. I wait for publication and further writing opportunities. I wait for falling in love and marriage. I wait for adventures and friendships that have not crossed my path yet. But waiting and trusting in God's plans doesn't automatically imply inaction. While my heart will only find true rest in Him, I cannot believe that there are not other aspects to the restlessness. For it is in pursuing the desires of the heart, in taking chances and moving at the behest of the Holy Spirit, that I may draw nearer to my Lord. I don't want to merely wait! I want to engage and pursue and try! I do wish I better understood how.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Well this day's been crazy
But everything's happened on schedule
from the rain and the cold
To the drink that I spilled on my shirt
'Cause You knew how You'd save me
before I fell dead in the garden
And You knew this day
long before You made me out of dirt
~Caedmon's Call, "Table for Two"

Things I've taken for granted since waking up this morning:
-waking up this morning
-the 7 hours of sleep I had
-indoor plumbing
-breakfast to eat
-more than enough clothing to choose from
-a functioning, comfortable vehicle
-a safe drive to work
-my roommates
-the clean drinking water I've been enjoying since 8 a.m.
-high speed internet
-shoes on my feet

My thoughts upon rising more easily roll toward the expectations of the day. What do I want out of the day? What will be expected of me? What responsibilities should I fulfill? Will I like the weather today? Will I have time to relax this evening? Can I sleep ten more minutes? Even when they are not negative, my thoughts hang back from the realm of joy. If my mind catches on to a specific good thing, it lifts with gladness. Maybe that gladness is enough to shape my mood for the day, maybe it isn't. Falls pretty far short of joy, wouldn't you say? Isn't it in the character of joy to be enduring? Joy, true joy, is unaltered by the passing bad things, and certainly not weakened by the abundance of what I treat as neutral things. It is not an emotion, though it can influence our emotions at every turn.

It isn't that I expect myself to become someone who is always consciously thankful for these and all the other things I simply assume will exist in my life. Nonetheless, I do expect myself to be consciously thankful for them on occasion, and to always be subconsciously thankful. That is, to live in a state of gratitude. Even when not pondering the particular blessings, the thankfulness can be present - a resident of my soul. Gratitude gives rise to joy, to graciousness and to the desire to worship. Joy is indeed enduring, but it is contingent on an enduring effort to choose joy.

Perhaps it is precisely in the overlooked that I could find strength for the effort. For it is all granted by God, is it not? It is in His hands, in His will, whether I wake today or I do not. When I come around to these moments of recognition, I must round the corner from gratitude for what has been given to joy in knowing the Giver.

And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this it is, and there is no other. ~St. Augustine

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

and also...

Elijah & Zach


and Lillian

I'm the happy aunt of...

My apologies to the eldest, but I have to say that each new nephew and niece seems to surpass the cuteness of the ones before them.

Ryan & Catrina

Grace Laila


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Despite The Snow

The sight outside my window when I woke this morning put me in a momentarily pouty mood. Snow again. It's sick. I spent the first twenty minutes of my day wondering yet again where I would rather live instead of Wisconsin. Then I got over it. This day refuses to be brought down by it's shameful beginning. No, its goodness will prevail.

You see, today is the release day for Jars of Clay's new album, "The Long Fall Back to Earth." That fact alone is enough to bless me with a good week, not merely a good day. You can be sure that the first order of business on my lunch break will be driving to the nearby Christian book store to pick up that album. The second order of business will be to free it from its plastic wrapper and insert it into my car stereo. And third, to listen with great enjoyment.

So my favorite band has determined for months that I would have a good day today, on this twenty-first day of April. Yet, there's more. I did manage to finish my editing last night. I went to sleep way too late with a happy smile on my face. There is a weight gone from my shoulders - a weight I did not mind bearing but am relieved to be free of nonetheless. Even with the transfer of the revisions from paper to computer left to do, I am rejoicing. Months ago, I laid down a rule for myself: No writing the new novel, The Mercy Hour, until the Full of Days editing is complete. Guess what! It's complete! Idea after idea has rolled around in my head and was jotted down on a dozen different sheets of paper, but I've refrained thus far from converting the ideas into paragraphs or chapters. No more! I feel as if a long awaited departure date for a new adventure has arrived. It's going to be a mighty fine adventure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Power Through"

Only two chapters left to edit! I think I'll persevere tonight and trade a little sleep for the sake of finishing. Peter Bradley Adams is one of my ideal accompaniments to writing. So I'll keep him on and keep going.

"April lay in your hands
The sign of rain for the year
You knew the time had come at last
Your heart no longer called you here"

Even once the editing is done, it'll take some long sessions at the laptop to type in the revisions. I work on paper, then transfer things to the computer. It's been that way all along. Writing Full of Days happened with paper and pen. I find that my already meager supply of creativity is bottled and corked when I try to write with a keyboard instead of a pen. Knowing what does and doesn't work for me bolsters my sense of being a real writer. Having a method, having that small measure of experience, chases away the nasty idea that I'm only fooling myself.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Winning the Game (I hope), Losing the Afternoon

Told myself I would finish editing my manuscript today. Instead I am transfixed by the Brewers game on my television screen. Who is this pitcher on the mound and what did they do with the mess that was Suppan in his previous starts? I can't stop watching. Must see Suppan gain another scoreless inning. Okay, I'll compromise. I'm hitting mute on the commercial breaks and turning my eyes to chapter nineteen until the top of the sixth starts.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Danger, Danger

Post-midnight blogging is always dangerous. I get too honest. If I'm up this late and online, you can assume that my mind is restless. I should be praying, not blogging. Here I am though, needing to get these words out of my head and onto the page.

Waiting is a terribly tricky thing. Waiting is not the same as stopping, but it can certainly feel the same. When I start to feel the weight of waiting, I get restless. I search for something I can move or change. It's a matter of compensation. If I can't force the forward movement in what I am wishing for, maybe I can force it in another area. The impatience gives rise to new haircuts and afternoons spent shopping instead of writing. It leads to plans being made in full awareness that they won't be fulfilled. I've learned to ride the waves of restlessness, to take it to prayer or lose myself in a book until it passes.

There are days though... oh, yes, there are days. And nights. Tonight happens to be one of those nights. This morning I was talking things over with the Lord and it all came down to one thing. I am confident in the goodness of His plans. I don't feel the need to know all those plans right now. What I long to be certain of is that there are plans. I simply want to be assured that this isn't it. I need to know that what I have in my life now is not all that I will have in my life. It's not the most grateful state of mind but it's honest.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Just Keeps Getting Better

With the current editing I am doing on my manuscript, this is the closest I've ever come to reading my own book. It's an odd thing. No pride or vanity intended, I have to admit that it's very good. At least, parts of it are very good. Much of the time I can remain focused on looking for changes to make. I read through sentences and decide to reword them. I choose to make a better word choice here or there. I take out superfluous statements. The editing is coming along well and I am happy with the improvements. There are certain places in the story, however, where I just get sucked into reading! I read three paragraphs and have to stop myself, sheepishly realizing that I have not paid any attention to editing needs.

This endeavor of editing is proving to be an encouragement. In addition to enjoying the story in the nearest thing to a 'reader' state of mind as I've had to date, I am also learning how far I have to go. The editing reveals how much room for improvement there is in my book. True, that could be a negative thing. Except that I always knew I wasn't the strongest of writers. I have no formal training. My college degree is not in English or Communications or any other relevant subject. School made me a good writer of research papers. It did nothing to foster my creative writing abilities. Instead, I have become a fiction writer by writing fiction. There is a marked difference in strength between the opening chapters of my first novel and the closing chapters. Also, I can't even estimate the worth of the revisions I have done since 'finishing' Full of Days. I have a persistent notion that in ten years, if I read my debut novel again, I will chuckle over how many more potential changes I will see then that I cannot see now. I plan on getting better. I plan on each novel being better than the last.

All the same though, I am rather happy with my first.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pleasant Preoccupation

I am thinking entirely too hard about what to include in this first post. "What do they want to know about me?" "What will cause them to come back again for the second post and the third?" I'm so over this dilemma.

This week's thoughts are all about a boy. While I am aware of all the other options available for my attention, I choose the boy. Over the pile of work waiting beside my keyboard, over the editing I claim will be completed this week, and even over the gnawing craving for a handful of the M&M's in plain sight at the moment, I choose the boy. The one I keep sighing over as I listen to Matt Nathanson. The one who has, for all practical purposes, become my reason for logging into facebook as often as I do. The one who is the first to make my stomach do somersaults since I was eighteen. Yes, there have been other attractions in the last nine years but none that equal the immediate, unshakable infatuation of the present. This dear boy produces such a mixture of hope vying against certain disappointment that I am left feeling imbalanced at all hours.

He's the reason I can't come up with anything more mature or consequential to write about today. Even putting that much in writing gives me some relief though. Putting a preoccupation down on paper (yes, I'm referring to this website as paper) releases it's hold to some degree - some tiny and temporary degree.