Friday, October 28, 2016

Doing the Hard Things

Ever have those days when God drops His subtle tendencies and instead places what you need smack dab in front of your face so you won't miss it? Today was one of those days. A Facebook friend shared this photo today and I broke down crying.
There's progress being made toward publishing Full of Days, my debut novel. Steps on this mountain climb of a dream coming true. Writing the first draft nine years ago was hard. Revisions ever since have been hard. Setting it aside when it was not top priority for a few years was hard. Rededicating myself to it this year with a level of commitment I had not employed since writing the first draft has been hard. 

It's all been hard and I have done it all. I have done it and every single bit has been worth it. That's what I keep reminding myself as I acknowledge the intimidation I feel right now. There's something no one ever told me about drawing close to fulfilling the dearest dream of your heart: it can be scary. Not pursuing the dream or giving up on it when you hit the inevitable bumps, those things are scary in their own crushing way. This is a different sort of scary. It's not crushing. It's not terrifying. It is simply intimidating. 

The repeated question running through my head is, "what will I do if this falls apart because I can't do it?" Sometimes the gist of that question is self-doubt, wondering if I am capable. Other times it is a panicked query of myself, at a loss for how I would handle this dream coming to an end so I'd better do everything possible to not let that happen.

I can do the hard things. As I've been doing and will continue to do until this novel is in the hands of every possible person willing to read it, I will do the hard things.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Say It

I love when my pair of crazies sleep at the same time. Today I used the first half hour of the nap productively: clearing things from lunch, folding laundry, and putting clean dishes away. Then it was time for Mamma to sit down. I flipped on Gilmore Girls and opened up Pinterest. My feet up and a pillow under my head, I was ready to relax for however long my children would allow.

A few thumb scrolls down the screen, I pinned a writing tip that looked useful: "100 Ways to Say 'Great.'" One of many similar resources I've found to help a writer avoid using an overused, mediocre word. I scrolled on, perusing recipes and fashion ideas, but the title of that pin kept returning to my mind.

100 ways to say "great." Admirable. Impressive. Spectacular. Lovely. Engaging. Miraculous. With this many superb (another on the list) words available to us, why is it so difficult to tell someone they are great?

We need to say it more. We need to hear it more. We need to stop keeping it to ourselves. When someone makes you laugh or smile extra wide, or someone offers a hug when you need that human touch. The favor-doer, the kind word speaker, the generous server. They all deserve to hear it.

It takes courage to do it. There is a vulnerability in saying kind things but I can't really explain why. This makes me think it is mainly rooted in our fragile pride, which in turn makes me think it is all the more worthwhile to overcome.

So pick your word. Look up the list on Pinterest or dig out that old Thesaurus and find your word. Then, say it. Say it often and say it genuinely to anyone who is great in your life.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hell of a Way to Die

Writing Prompt: It was a hell of a way to die.
Writing Time: 30 minutes (Longer than usual! We'll see where this takes us.)

Canoe. River. Rocks. Cougars.

It was a hell of a way to die. At least it would make an interesting story. I curled myself deeper into the crevice of the cliff and imagined the teenagers that would hike out here a year from now.

"This is where that girl got mauled by a pair of cougars."

"Yeah, they found her canoe half a mile down the river, all torn up."

They'd stand on the ledge eight feet above where I crouched now, enjoying the horror of it all.

I normally turn around before reaching this section of the river. Today, I wanted to keep going. It's those damn leaves and the way Autumn makes me feel. Oranges, reds, yellows, and those stalwart evergreens living up to their name; I simply had to paddle farther.

A regrettable whim.

When I hit the rocks, the wood of the canoe split beside my left foot. Split is a gentler word than what really happened. Those rocks were not the rounded boulders smoothed by the current that I have encountered before. They were dagger sharp offshoots of the cliff, typically not immersed but the river is high this week.

The water invading the canoe took away any control I still had, tossing the boat into the next set of rocks then flipping me out of my seat. My forearm was sliced by an edge of one rock but my real concern was the undercurrent. A river this high, I knew that undercurrent was stronger than any resistance I'd be able to muster after more than a few minutes of struggle. I wrapped myself around one of those blades of stone like my dearest possession rather than the source of my demise.

From there it was a slippery, bruising scramble toward the cliff. I found enough footholds to reach this crevice, a cave of sorts, and rested. The sun can't reach me here; the brisk October chill, so lovely as I paddled, had me shaking as I watched the rivulets of water running from my boots and clothing over the side of the cliff. My arm was throbbing but not bleeding much.

When I thought I could manage it, I set my mind on making it to the top of the cliff. It was mid morning; at least eight hours til sunset so light wasn't a worry. Surely I'd find my way to a road or a house before then. All I had to do was make it up there and start moving. Move to keep warm. Move to find my way out.

I stuck my head out from under the ledge. Eight feet or so; doable. The stone face was dry up here, which was helpful. I felt around for a place to grip, pulled my body out of the cave, and gritted my teeth as I used my injured arm to continue the movement. One step at a time, carefully, determinedly, I ascended to the top. Such relief when one hand then the other landed on dry grass and cold dirt! Every muscle in my upper body strained to lift. When my face was met with open air instead of the gray striations of stone, I exhaled in a giddy shout.

That's when I saw the cougars.

They both were crouched, chests to the ground, wide jaws suspended above the grass. One was still, glaring, eyes locked on mine. The other was moving toward me by inches at a time. My shout became a split second scream then silent. I could hear them breathing that throaty purr of big cats. I climbed back down to my cave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Don't Stop Being That Girl

There was a girl dancing in her driveway on my way to work this morning. Backpack on the ground; jeans and sneakers, pink hooded sweatshirt and brown hair in a swinging ponytail. She didn't care that a stranger was.driving by. As I passed, she glanced my way without missing a step. It looked like a particular dance routine, something she'd been practicing.

As she disappeared from my rear view, still dancing the length of her driveway, I flashed back to years ago when I was probably about her age. My sister and I were briefly obsessed with the Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman soundtracks. We made up a dance routine for one of the tracks; I can't for the life of me remember which one. It might have been just the two of us or it might have been with our two best friends. Exactly the sort of scheme the four of us would have undertaken with solemn, sleepover dedication.

I wanted to turn around and hurry back. I wanted to jump out of the car and shout, "Don't stop being that girl!" Don't stop being the girl who doesn't care that a stranger sees her dancing. That girl who imagines, creates, and does what she sets her mind to do. The one who laughs at her mistakes then sets her mind on succeeding the next time around. Don't stop being that girl who smiles like she has a sweet secret and dances like no one's watching because she doesn't care if anyone is watching.

"Don't stop being that girl," I whispered to myself and kept driving.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


You know that tremendous weight of something being nearly finished but not quite? It is not a burden, this weight. It is thick with anticipation and heavy with significance. The matter paces the circuit of your brain, refusing to step off your mental homestead even while you focus elsewhere. It is always there, always present in the shadows, biding its time. It waits for that break in the day when you'll pull it back into the light. It looks forward to those end of the evening hours when, despite the tiredness, you can't bring yourself to be so cruel as to make it wait until tomorrow. It knows you'll come for it if it simply holds its ground.

The book proposals are almost finished.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Because the Saints Said So: If a Little Flower Could Speak (St. Therese)

Tonight I burnt my thumb. It hurts like the dickens. Every time I take it out of the cup of ice water it makes me want to cry. So, we're going to keep this brief.

Saturday was the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, nicknamed the Little Flower. She's one of my favorite ladies. Therese is an incredible combination of strength and sweetness, of wisdom and youthfulness, and of humility and beauty. If there is one single spiritual work I could recommend due to how it affected me it is Fr. Jean d'Elbee's "I Believe in Love," which is a retreat in book form based on the spirituality of St. Therese.

As we do in this series on the blog, we will focus on a single quote from today's saint of choice:
"If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case."
We are the little flowers, dear reader. Creations of beauty. That's us. Crafted by God and adorned by His gifts. Stop pretending you're not. Don't shake your head or scoff at my words. We are the little flowers and we can speak! Acting as if we are less than what God created us to be, thinking less of ourselves, leading others to think less of us: none of this gives God glory.

Recognize the good, realize its divine source, and proclaim it by your life. We are always proclaiming something, by our words, obviously, but also by basically every other aspect of daily living. Be a conscious, deliberate proclaimer.

Speak well, little flower.