Sunday, March 2, 2014

To the Whistling Man in the Walmart Parking Lot

Today, I notice two new silver hairs. They thicken the streak of silver that already waves its way through my bangs. The crows feet stare at me from the mirror, along with the creases at the corners of my mouth that have introduced themselves to my reflection in the last few years.

Yesterday, my daughter held her palm against mine. "Mommy," she said, "your hand is a lot more spotted and wrinkled than mine."

Ah, the brutal honesty of the innocent.

The truth is, I haven't been aging gracefully. I've been aging, kicking, screaming, biting, and clawing my way through it. 

Tonight, I wheel my cart of groceries through the parking lot to my minivan--my minivan that says, "Hi, I'm a mom. I'm a wife. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I have three little troopers that sit in these three car seats several times a week and compete for who can reach the highest decibel."

Somewhere along the line, I lose track of the van and aim for a minivan farther down the row. When I reach it, I see the license plate, and stop suddenly in confusion. Where is my familiar vehicle? I turn in a full circle, and then I see it. Or him.

A man, standing beside the open door of his vehicle. His mouth reshapes itself, and a whistle splits the air--a whistle that proclaims to the parking lot: "I like the way you look."

I stare at the man, memorizing his familiar features, the way his fingers curve around the door handle, as they had done to my hand nearly ten years ago when he had slipped a ring onto the now-wrinkled finger of my left hand.

This man has watched each of my wrinkles form over the years, has combed his fingers through the silver streaks that have appeared, has found ways to say, "I love you, and you're still beautiful to me" through all ten years.

So to the whistling man in the Walmart parking lot: I love you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I Want To Be Like Gollum

You know that shot of Gollum at the end of The Return of the King where he reaches for the Ring as he falls, slowly, eternally into the fires of Mount Doom? Even with his dying breath, it is what he desires more than life itself. The Ring encapsulates his heart's desire, and even death cannot distract him.

So here it is, thirty days into January, the Endless Month. The Month of Cold. The Month of Dark. The Month That Will Never End. Ever. February, like the Ring, stays just out of my reach. I reach for it, struggle for it, hope for it, watch it dance just beyond my fingertips for so long, and yet.

I have never been diagnosed with any specific depression disorders, but I do know that as January repeats itself every day for eternity, I lose hope of ever seeing spring again, of ever feeling warm again. Obviously, the calendar tells me a different story, but I'm talking about the feelings that accompany the long, dark days.

You know what? Amazingly, February always comes. And then March. And then April. That's just how it works.

I was thinking today about the Israelites, years ago, waiting for so long for their Messiah, getting heartsick as years and decades and centuries passed. And now today, as we wait for His second coming. Do seeds of doubt ever blossom in our mind? Does it ever feel like year after year after century passes, and still, and still, and still? 

But what kind of Christian doubts? Honestly? *sheepishly raises hand* 

I admit to flashes of uncertainty. What if? What if it's all just a big cosmic joke? What if I've placed my trust and my hope in a grand illusion? I doubt very much I'd win any awards in heaven for my implicit trust. Because I've certainly tarnished my crown with a few too many seeds of doubt.

But one thing always calls me back. No matter how dark the days, no matter how massive the cloud of doubt that hovers over my head, the concept of God's faithfulness won't let me lose hope entirely. Even when I lose sight of Him, He never loses sight of me. When I question His very existence, He stands patiently by and coaches me through it. When I just can't see the next step ahead, He picks me up and carries me through the murk of gloom and doom.

I love that old hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, oh God, my Father. Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

If I only know where to look.

I want to be like Gollum. Not really the words you'd typically expect to hear; most people who have read the books or seen the movie would shudder to say those words in that order. But seriously, I do. I want to have such implicit longing, such undeterred devotion to the One Person that really matters, that even in the throes of doubt, despair or death, I still strain to reach the object of my heart's desire.

Monday, January 20, 2014

You Really Want to be a Writer? (Re-blog from Harry Kraus)

First, I haven't blogged for awhile. I've been so caught up in vomiting story material into my first draft of my current work in progress, that I haven't given myself pause for at least three weeks.

Second, if I was going to blog, it would be about this, because this hits home. So, so much.

Third, since my friend and fellow author wrote it first and put it much more eloquently than I could, I will post his link here, and tell all of you, especially you fellow writers, to go read it. Do it. It's really good.

Harry Kraus: 3 Men Walk Into A Blog

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stage Manager

I'm an alto. I'm probably a second alto. My voice breaks when it moves from an A above middle C to a B above middle C. After that, it's all in my head voice. For you non-musical folks who are reading this, that means that my singing range is only a little higher than someone like James Earl Jones (Darth Vader from Star Wars) or Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug from the recent Hobbit, Desolation).

I grew up in a perpetual state of mild jealousy of the sopranos around me. I wanted to be a leading soprano. Why? Because leading sopranos could get actual speaking parts in school musicals. Since school musicals obviously are such an important aspect of the average middle and high schooler's life, I let myself get depressed every time I was passed over by much higher-ranged voices for the parts I wanted.

I remember the first time I really tried to listen to an alto line. I was singing Trust and Obey with my mother in church, and since she is a second alto, I honed in on the line she was singing. It was one note through most of the song. I leaned over and whispered, "Alto's really boring, isn't it?" She leaned back and said, "No, it's what makes the soprano pretty."

Today, I was thinking about personalities. I've heard it said that almost all personalities will fit one of the characters in Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. Some people are energetic, vivacious, exciting, go-get-'em. Kind of like Tigger. They live their lives in a crazy circle of activity and social whirl. 

There are the wet blankets. The Eeyores. They have a perpetual half empty glass sitting on their desk, and more often than not, find themselves comfortable in their gloominess.

Kangas are the caretakers. Piglets are the shy ones shrinking behind their curtains, afraid that anyone will notice them. The Owls of the world are erudite, studious, oozing gray matter like there's no tomorrow. Rabbits remind me of a shrew, nitpicking the thread of life until it comes unwoven and picked apart.

And the Poohs bumble their way through life, not really making much fuss and bother, not really letting themselves get upset by anything. They take life as it comes, ebbing and flowing with the tides around them.

It takes all kind of people to make a world. If we had only the sopranos, wouldn't the music we make as we go through life be kind of flat? One-dimensional? Even a little boring? If we add an alto note or two, or a tenor, or a bass, or all of the above, voila, suddenly we have depth, beauty, mystery, undertones.

I see some of Tigger in me, and some of Piglet, and some of Pooh, and a little of Kanga. Owl, well, no. Eeyore, only if I haven't had any chocolate for a week.

Over time, I've come to appreciate the depth that makes life interesting. I will always admire the leaders: the Type A's that take charge and get things done. I'll always admire the lead singers in the musicals who can belt out Climb Every Mountain or Angel of Music without much seeming effort. 

But there will always be someone in the back behind that curtain that makes sure the actor is on stage at the proper time with the necessary props and the make-up in place and the lights on and the music cued up.

What would life be like if there were no stage managers among us?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Judge Me A Ten?

I think my favorite quote ever (or almost ever) is Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages."

Phil Robertson has a stage. The Duck Commander had a stage on the A&E network before they fired him for voicing his beliefs in an unrelated interview (but that's beside the point). Before he had a stage with A&E, he had a stage simply by being a walking/talking person who carries on relationships with other people.

In all the brouhaha that went on yesterday in relation to A&E's hit show, Duck Dynasty, it slowly began to dawn on me that this is just a drop in the bucket. At this precise moment in time, sure, Phil Robertson made the proverbial splash in the water, with perhaps a few more ripples than the average person, but since the day he's been born, he's made ripples because he's a living, breathing human being.

I may be slow on the uptake (freely admitted), but I suddenly realized yesterday that I have a stage, too. We all do. Every single one of us. My stage, sure, is considerably less large than Phil Robertson's, but that doesn't mean that it has to have any less impact on people than his does.

Every thought, every action that I put in front of people, my husband, my children, my friends, my readers, complete strangers, will be judged in some way, shape, or form, just as I form my own judgements when I see what goes on around me every day. 

Before someone blasts me for using the word "judging," please let me explain. I make judgements every day. 

Car coming. Is there enough space for me to cross the street before he gets here and I splat like a bug on his windshield? No, I think I'll stay put.

What's five more bucks for this cheap DVD that I've been wanting to have? No biggie, right? Except we've been over the grocery budget for two months running. Maybe not this time.

That girl just called my daughter a name. Should I go over and tell her to back off or let my daughter fight her own battles?

We all judge each other every day. No matter what side of the coin you're on regarding the whole Phil Robertson thing, every one of us has made judgements concerning him. 

So my point is, if people are going to be watching me on my stage, passing judgement on every action or word that leaves my mouth, I had better make good and sure that what I put out there is worth the refining fire. 

When all the fluff, chaff, and dross get burned away from my actions and words, I hope a few gold nuggets come into the light. It may be wishful thinking, but one can dream, right?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Blank Page

I'm 6,788 words into my newest novel, the second book in a young adult urban fantasy series about a young girl caught up as the centerpiece in a political revolution such as the world has never seen.

Only 93,212 words left to go. In this book. And then, there are the next two.

George R.R. Martin, author of The Game of Thrones and subsequent sequels, once famously said, "I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written."

I won't necessarily completely agree with him. I do enjoy writing. I enjoy it a lot. Mostly, however, I enjoy writing snippets. A title here, a prologue there, even a chapter . . . or two. But when I stand at this end of the book, and gaze at that end of the book, I feel a bit like a clown fish would feel if I were released from the relative safety of my tiny Petco saltwater tank back into the Pacific Ocean.

It seems overwhelming and daunting.

Daunting: adj: tending to overwhelm or intimidate

My thousand-words-a-day rule is my thread of hope that I cling to every day. Every day, I sit down during my kids' nap times and peck out a thousand words minimum on my laptop. It may not make much sense, it may not even add to the storyline. But it's a regular discipline that I maintain stringently. I don't miss a single day. It's not a lot of words; I read blogs from other authors who write ten thousand words in a day and send off manuscripts to their publishers every month or two. 

At this stage in my life, I can't do that.

But I can write a thousand words. So I will. Eventually, I will stop the story around 100,000 words, look back and say, wow, I did it.

Baby steps.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Potty-Straining Take 2 or 200... Something... I've Lost Count

Sometimes, I throw my hands up in the air, and wave 'em like I just don't care...

Trouble is, I do care, but I've pretty much given up. Every time I give up, I think, I'll try just one more time, and then I give up again, and I throw my hands in the air again, and wave 'em like I just don't care... again...

It's a vicious cycle.

So what's this all about?

The process of training one's masculine offspring to urinate/defecate in the proper receptacle instead of into the offspring's own raiment, thereby promoting maturation and cultivation of the offspring, ushering him from infancy into the proper development of an older child.

In other words: potty-training.

I've lost count of the times I've thought, I think I finally did it! I think he's finally trained! And then, like an evil imp that comes back to mock its audience, he sinks back into wet jeans and wet underwear... one more time.

Sometimes, I feel like a bull-dog, sinking my teeth with stubborn tenacity into an issue that refuses to be resolved, never letting go, never seeing hope of a solution.

Charts: check.
Prizes: check.
Encouragement: check.
BIG Prizes: check.
Cleans up his own messes: check.
Alarms every hour: check.
Alarms every half an hour: check.
Privileges taken away: check.
Pull-ups: check.
Regular underwear: check.

Success: nope.

I don't know. I've said it before and I'll say it now. When he moves out to go to college or wherever, he's going to start changing his own diapers.