In all honesty, I became an author quite by accident. I didn’t take a single English class in college. I was a music major, after all, and I passed the AP English exam from high school, which counted as my college credit. Good enough for me. And for years after graduating, my focus was still music. Writing wasn’t even on my radar. I played the organ for church, directed a few choirs over the years, and had no intention of becoming an author. But then a student of the week project for my second-grade son gave me an idea for an A to Z poem that eventually became the book Our Faith From A to Z. Now, that’s the sort of book I can handle. There were specific parameters under which I had to operate- one word for each letter of the alphabet, each verse had to fit the meter of the poem, and I had to write an explanatory paragraph for each of the 26 words or concepts. I can do that. Fiction, on the other hand, is an entirely different sort of beast. You can pretty much go anywhere and do anything in your writing, so long as it’s interesting enough to capture people’s attention. It’s sort of daunting for someone like me who likes specific boundaries. I even told my best friend once, “I have no desire whatsoever to venture into fiction.” And that should have been the end of it. Because once I did try fiction, I did everything wrong. Continue reading
I hate waiting.
So says Inigo Montoya in the well-known movie The Princess Bride, and I have to say, I agree with him. He is, of course, waiting for the man in black to finish climbing the mountain so he can sword fight him. My life isn’t nearly that thrilling. The most exciting thing for which I’m waiting right now is the publication of my first novel. I’m learning that a lot of writing involves waiting- waiting to hear whether or not they like my manuscript when I send it in, waiting to receive an edited copy, waiting for a second edited copy, interior design, proofreading… You get the picture. There are a lot of steps, and the whole process takes more than a year from start to finish. While I’m in the middle of the process, that seems like an awfully long time. But all things considered, that’s not a terrible wait time. And I need to remind myself that it’s actually good that it takes as long as it does. I don’t want to rush through the steps of editing and proofreading only to end up with a sloppy end product. Even though I may wish it was a shorter process, in the end, it’s totally worth the wait.
Some time ago I did my quarterly …
semi-annual … okay, annual (if I’m lucky) full-house carpet cleaning. I’m talking pulling out beds, moving dressers, and rearranging furniture. Oh, sure, I use it here and there to spot clean, but this was different. I focused on a different room each day, and by the end of the week, the carpets were squeaky clean, and I was feeling pretty happy about my progress, so I decided to use the upholstery tool to clean the couch and armchair as well. Looking at our couch beforehand, it didn’t look especially disgusting. It’s beige, so it showed a few discolorations, sure, where the kids spilled something or other. But I had the false impression that it was fairly clean overall. Boy, was I wrong. Continue reading
It was not a good start to the week. My baby had been fussy all weekend long, waking multiple times during the night, which is unusual for him. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, and his crankiness during the day was not fun to deal with under such circumstances. Then on Sunday evening, my fifth grader started complaining that his ear hurt. That night was his turn to be up multiple times, crying because of pain in his ear. Come Monday morning, I loaded them up and hauled them off to the doctor, to find that both had rip-roaring ear infections, and that my ten-year-old’s eardrum had actually burst. My four-year-old had fluid in her ears but it wasn’t infected, but that evening she started complaining that she had “crumbs” in her ear. Off to the doctor we went again the next morning. No, she didn’t have an ear infection. She had strep. Lovely. With three sick kids, a house full of germs, and myself going on zombie hormones to begin with, it was shaping up to be a pretty awful week.
As a mother of five, I see my fair share of fighting. It seems like some days all I am is a referee, mediating between one fight after another. And it gets old pretty fast. Most parents can probably agree with me on this point. In general, fighting is looked upon as a bad thing. Kids are encouraged not to fight, especially with their fists. We try to teach our kids to work things out by talking through their differences rather than fighting. But I have surprising news for you. Sometimes fighting can be a good thing.
I love to write. I love the thrill I get when I have a good idea for a plot development. I love holing myself away in my little closet office as I race to get the words onto the screen before I forget what I’m trying to say. I love talking about my characters to anyone who will listen. I love that I can use my imagination and not have to follow a set of directions. I basically love everything about writing. Well, that’s not exactly true. There’s one part of writing I could do without: editing.
I see a lot of myself in Martha. I like to be industrious and keep busy around the house. And trust me, with five kids, there’s always something to be done. The chores never end. And like Martha, I tend to get impatient with those who aren’t helping. Impatience very easily gives way to resentment, and pretty soon I find myself grumbling to God, “Don’t you care that I’m the only one who ever does anything around here?” I may be “serving” others and getting the chores done, but it certainly isn’t with a happy heart.
For as terrible as it got, it had a rather innocuous start. Two days after contact, I noticed two small bumps on my arm and wondered about them. Over the course of the next few days, more bumps appeared. Then more. Then there were some on my sides. My arms and both sides of my abdomen were covered with blistering sores, and during the dog days of summer I was relegated to wearing long sleeves to cover the gauze that hid the ugly red sores and scabs that lasted the better part of a month. What caused all this discomfort and pain? Poison ivy.
I was almost done unloading my shopping cart when another lady pushed her cart in behind me. I glanced at her apologetically, saying, “You’ll be here a while.”
“I’m in no rush,” she assured me.
I smiled and continued unloading. Half of my groceries were already bagged and loaded into another cart, the entire conveyor belt was full of more groceries, and there were still some left in my original cart. The lady behind me observed all this, and tried to make small talk.
“Big trip today, huh?”
“We have five kids,” I explained. “And I try to do a shopping trip for two weeks at a time so I don’t have to come as often that way.”
Her eyes widened. She took in my three-year old and 15-month old sitting side by side in the double cart, uncharacteristically docile as they looked at her. She hadn’t been privy to their meltdown on aisle 8.
“Do you plan out your meals two weeks in advance, too?” she inquired.
I nodded in affirmation, and her eyes got even wider. With awe in her voice, she said, “You’re so organized!”
I sure had her fooled.
I love Lenten hymns. Of all the church seasons, something strikes me about the penitential season of Lent. The hymns are poignant and the melodies are often beautiful. But sometimes it’s easy to sing through the words without really thinking about the meaning. So with Holy Week upon us, let’s take a look at one such example.