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Overheard ….

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Breakfast with Dad and DH and the little one this morning. Always good, sometimes awkward. Today was rushed with a million things to do and weekend plans still falling into place, and … and … and.

I overhear at the table behind us, “Blah-blah-blah … Halloween decorations on one side, Christmas on the other … blah, blah … whatever happened to Thanksgiving?”

I sigh. I see DH twitch a bit, because he knows the look on my face means he’s about to be subjected to a tirade about stuff that sends me over the edge. I have a look … he knows it … he has braced himself. But, since we’re in a public venue, I simply take a deep breath, and give the table an ever-so-brief glimpse of WHY said situation probably exists. I’ll share it with you later in this piece. Anyway …

I’ve heard the same conversation over and over a thousand times. And while we all have opinions, and we all have feelings about different things, I have to say I’m sick of this conversation.

Why?

Well, here’s the way I look at it. I think a certain segment of the population that will remain nameless here because then I make less people angry have these repetitious conversations about small things that they personally believe they can do nothing about. Still, they continue to talk ad nauseam about said subjects, complaining without any desire hope of resolve. Why?

Somehow, I think people feel like, when the talk about something they DO make a difference. Or at the very least, belong. There’s this psychological view of “Group Feelings.” Here’s what the site (http://io9.com/5813475/10-psychological-states-youve-never-heard-of–and-when-you-experienced-them) says about them:

Group feelings
Some psychologists argue that there are some feelings we can only have as members of a group — these are called intergroup and intragroup feelings. Often you notice them when they are in contradiction with your personal feelings. For example, many people feel intergroup pride and guilt for things that their countries have done, even if they weren’t born when their countries did those things. Though you did not fight in a war, and are therefore not personally responsible for what happened, you share in an intergroup feeling of pride or guilt. Group feelings often cause painful contradictions. A person may have an intragroup feeling (from one group to another) that homosexuality is morally wrong. But that person may personally have homosexual feelings. Likewise, a person may have an intragroup feeling that certain races or religions are inferior to those of their group. And yet they may personally know very honorable, good people from those races and religions whom they consider friends. And group feeling can only come about through membership in a group, and isn’t something that you would ever have on your own. But that doesn’t mean group feelings are any less powerful than personal ones.

These … verbal ascents … permeate our society. Those of us that fight against (but often fail) groupthink recoil at the thought of just falling into a poorly thought out, cliched conversation. I know, sitting here in the seat of judgement here, but man. Can’t we think of something else to talk about? Or at least do something about what we complain about?

Here’s my thought about the Thanksgiving thing. Do you know why stores push through the holiday of Thanksgiving? Here’s my opinion:

How do you monetize thankfulness? Sure, there are turkeys and pilgrims and all … but how many people (in the grand scheme of the other two holidays) go all out decorating for Thanksgiving? I mean, there is the food … but even that usually lies in the “raw materials” of a home cooked meal, right? Don’t people realize that, if a store could make a lot of money by promoting Thanksgiving, they would?

Or, when did the whole idea that Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in corporate America have anything — and I mean ANYTHING — to do with our ability to celebrate being thankful? All the stores do is accentuate our ability to be consumers, right? They make it possible to “buy stuff.” NOT celebrate. Not “be thankful.” All stores do is make it possible to buy stuff that somehow some people substitute for the holiday, Hmmm …

I like to celebrate just like the next person. And while I, sadly, fully participate in the consumerism that surrounds holidays (especially Christmas), what the stores decorate for, or what I can or cannot buy, has nothing to do with my ability to celebrate. If they made more money by “pushing” Thanksgiving, you bet they would. It has nothing to do with an attack on Christianity, folks. Sorry. I don’t buy it. You’ll have to look for your persecution somewhere else.

Here’s the deal. If you want to celebrate Thanksgiving, do it despite what the stores display. In fact, thanksgiving is one of those “things” we should be celebrating day in and day out! If you want to say “Merry Christmas” when the time comes along, say it. Most people could care less. In fact, if you say “Merry Christmas” as you are giving donations to help people, or smiling at a haggard salesperson, or feeding the homeless, or distributing home-baked goods to peripheral people in your life, my guess is your “Merry Christmas” might become one of the best parts of their happy holidays. If you want to forget the pagan origins of Christmas, and Easter and celebrate the Christianized standard, please do! But do it with a heart that faithfully reflects the savior you serve.

OK. My blog … my rant.

But can I say one more thing? As a proponent of personal responsibility, can I just ask one thing? Then next time you want to delve into “group feelings,” can you attempt to take a breath and try and remember absolute statements (“always,” “never,” etc.) are usually NOT true. No race, religion, political party, economic status, sports team fans, or any of the like are “always or never” anything, folks. I am a person who absolutely HATES being grouped into a bunch of people for which I have some affinity for and being grouped together with them and labeled. All of us are individuals, true? Grouping like that makes hatred much more feasible. Stripping away a person’s individuality helps us hate people — countries — religious groups. It makes things like genocide and slavery possible. And while sometimes I am proud to be known as something (in my family, a part of my church), I do not want to be judged by them — or for them to be judged by me.

So … there we go. Express your first amendment rights all you want. But know there might be at least one person who is hearing you and feeling highly frustrated that you are squandering your rights to propagate bias and hatred and craziness. Don’t let stores determine your holiday mood. Don’t let your personal prejudice keep you from making friends and influencing people. And please, if you claim to be a believer, please do all things in love.

I’m done.

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“The Spirit of Place”

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In his book, The Accidental Connoisseur, Lawrence Osborne takes the reader on a trek through the discovery of wine. British-born Osborne, who is a novelist but also has written for the New York Times, writes of his experiences learning about living out the discovery of the spiritual essence and evolution of American wine terroir and tastes. I picked this book up on a whim. It’s sat around my house, and until recently I only breached the first chapter or so. But I, too, have a desire to “know more” about the subtleties and beauty of the ancient drink, and thought his travelogue (of sorts) would be a good introduction.

I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve savored the book, reading a chapter here, a chapter there, and have let myself ponder the things this excellent writer says. His language, like his subject, is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. This is especially true in his chapter, “The Spirit of Place.” Here, Osborne speaks of the essayist, Gerald Asher, and his response to a question that torments wine connoisseurs of all ages, and for all ages: What is the best wine you’ve ever had? It would be equivalent, in many respects, to asking my favorite question of chefs: What would you choose for your last meal on earth? You put this person who has made wine — or food, respectively — their lives in a position to narrow down all the tastes and flavors of their entire career, into one or two selections. 

Cruel. But we who are uneducated in such things often want a “fast fix,” a suggestion that, if we are ever in a position to experience, we could say, “Oh yes! This is Gerald Asher’s ‘favorite’ wine of all times,” or “Oh, Anthony Bourdain would have this as his last meal …” Somehow, we glean off of them bits and pieces that we ourselves are sadly absent from. 

Asher, however, threw out the next few lines. I think they are beautiful — and true:

“But most memorable of my life? Were it not that people casually met might assume I was making fun of them, I would in fact explain that it was, and still remains, unidentified. I drank it at a mouton inn near the Simplon pass in the early summer of either 1962 or 63.” Osbourne goes on to explain that, at the time, Asher was a young man visiting Europe wineries for a London importer he worked for. Asher goes on to explain the nuances of the experience, the taste of the wine, the amused look on the server’s face when he asked what it was, and she replied, “vino rosa” (red wine). In all his years of traveling and tasting wine, he never found anything like it again. Then, he said this:

But the pleasure in any wine is subjective: we each bring something to what is there in the glass and interpret the result differently.” Osbourne interprets Asher thus: “Asher seems to be suggesting that place itself is twofold: on the one hand, it is terroir; on the other, it is what is going on around you as you are drinking. The first is geological, the second psychological. And taste was presumably a high-wire act balancing itself precariously between the two (p. 91).”

I had a similar experience when we were in China. Bruce, the kids and I were invited by Chinese national Byron (who happened to be the kids’ administrator over their school) to visit the Great Wall, with him as tour guide. He brought with him his beautiful wife Sue and his nephew, Ray, neither of whom spoke much English. I was beyond stoked. This man had lived in the shadow of The Wall his entire life. He had visited several times, hiking many miles. He was kind — his English excellent. I knew the day would be memorable.

On the way to the wall, we stopped by a restaurant of which I cannot remember its name. It was a family-owned place, situated about an hour from the Wall. It was in the middle of a tourist town, laid dormant for the winter. We appeared to be one of only two or three guest groups there that day. 

We were lead upstairs to a huge round table. Marissa and Wesley informed us we’d be having “dishes,” a traditional form of Chinese eating where things are served “family style” from a huge lazy susan that continually turned, and was replenished as dishes wore thin. There were dishes I cannot name to this day. Byron explained that much of what we ate that day was gathered locally, and only available near this village. Things were well spiced, most stir fried and retained their crunch. The fish was like butter, melting in your mouth. The vegetable were foreign and exotic and were some of the best I’d ever had. We sat, eating, laughing, conversing … crossing language barriers and cultural stumbling blocks like old friends, they helping us navigate not only the culinary experience, but helping us better understand the beautiful Chinese people. 

To this day, it was perhaps one of the best meals I ever had. And like Asher, I wonder. Was it the true geography of the dinner table that day? Or was it “everything else”? I believe my experience that day was the “high-wire act,” balanced between actual good taste (which the food was) and the entire experience of being a world away, enjoying good food, and good company, and once-in-a-lifetime ambiance. 

The spirit of place. It’s true in our day to day lives, too. Certain places — certain meals or drinks — ring out to us. I believe, as I get older, it becomes more difficult for me to separate what my senses experience and what my mind frames it all in. And this evolving ,epiphanous state of being helps me deal with the ups and downs of life more serenely. 

I received disappointing and discouraging news today. I had a choice. Do I process it as a life-altering event, or do I process it as “another thing”? Here, in the peace of my home, surrounding by loving family and supportive friends, is it really “that big of a deal”? Will I remember today with heartbreak, or will I remember today as “the day that took me to what was next”? It’s my choice. 

This will probably not be an end, as it feels right now. Rather, when I look back and attempt to categories the “best” and “worse” from my life, it might not even make the cut. Why? Because the surrounding geography has little to do with the psychology that tells me this is not a defining moment. It does not tell me what I am or what I am not. I am atop the high wire, balancing it all out. Wine, food, disappointment — it’s all subjective. It’s all under my interpretation. 

The spirit of this place I call home reminds me to breathe deep. So, I will.

On Russian Literature and beauty

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I’ll admit, my exposure to Russian literature lays within the bounds of Tolstoy,Dostoyevsky. and Solzhenitsyn. I am in no way any type of expert, nor do I claim to be. So understand that the following treatise is limited at best.

That being said … I have found that the way these three men, representative of two very different Russia’s, have a way with the written word that few other cultures seem to have. Watching again the most recently adaptation of “Anna Karenina”I am taken away with the depth of things the author says without actually saying them. Those words … things like, “Divorce is one thing — dinner is another,” or, “I thank God the curse of love is lifted from me,” or even this: “He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.” Beautiful. And as you continue to read, you catch the heart of Tolstoy … you heart hears the heart of Tolstoy. This book is stunningly deep and relevant and lives still because Tolstoy chose to live in the words he put down on the page. They took on their own life, in the moment, and continue to resonate through the years. 

I recently heard Don Miller (In case you don’t know who he is) say that if you write with the thought of the grandeur and glory and money, you will lose the love of the craft. Writing is something that resonates in the soul. And the practice of writing — the discipline — somehow has the tendency to get lost in the economics of it all. Somewhere between the actual putting down of words on paper, and creating characters and setting that last for hundreds of years, there is this sweet spot where the hard work of writing takes place.

I, for one, struggle to live there. Writing was always second nature to me, so when it came to actually trying … I was at a loss. I think, like so many things that become “function” in life, I lost sight of what was truly important. And it was easy for me to remember the “glory days” when words came like summer rain — powerful, torrentially and left pools for me to splash around in for days after. 

As I got older, words became a way to future glory. “If only I could …” because a phrase that brought me false comfort and caused me to waste time dreaming that I should have spent writing. Not that dreaming is bad in and of itself. But when it provides an outlet to simply keep you from doing what you “should” be doing (a distraction), then it loses all it’s benefit. My “someday” kept me from concentrating on what needed to be done in the here and now. 

That’s what NOT living in the moment brings us. We are creatures that tend to default to either side of the present. The line that is “the now” is tiny and difficult to walk when we look and notice there is so much space on both the past and the future side of it. And while that concept can be dragged to extremes (it’s kind of what got Anna and Vronsky in trouble), living in the moment actually gives perspective to what was, and lays a healthier foundation for what is to come. 

What am I saying? Living in the moment is a continuing, constant struggle for me. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I desire to “walk the line” when it comes to experiences and energy and desire, because right now is the only sure thing we are given. To truly be present and breathe in all that is right in front of me makes me appreciate my life and those who are a part of it more fully. I want to be focused, taking mental snapshots of people and things I love that are blessing me right now. My third born headed to college. My time alone with the youngest. My dad. My husband. Vicariously experiencing the things my older two are as they are so faithful at staying in touch on a daily basis, and sharing the part of their lives that I cannot be a part of because of physical distance.  Living — truly living – in the right now.

I also think I fell back in love with language today, and how it works within the process of writing. The words, the phrases … they brought to me sight and sound and feeling. And I was reminded of how powerful a well placed turn of phrase and such can be. It literally moved me. 

One of the most famous quotes comes when Anna asks why Vronsky loves her. He tells her, “You can’t ask WHY about love!”I think there are many things in life like that. We as humans have this desire to love things we don’t understand. Be they supernatural (as in faith) or creative (as in abstract art) or affairs of the heart (we can say we love this or that in our significant other, but isn’t there always “something more” we cannot articulate?). My love for Russian literature falls under that nebulous category of “Things I can’t quite place my finger on”. And today, that “love” moved me into other realizations.

It truly is a beautiful thing. 

 

Thunderstorms

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There’s a tremendous summer storm going on right now here in mid-Michigan. It’s glorious … lightning, thunder, torrential rain, the whole nine yards.

I’m a big storm fan. There’s something about storms that make me want to hole up in my house, watching familiar movies and just being with my family. I’ve got one of my favorite Christmas movies on right now (please don’t judge, I know it’s August). All I need now is a hot mug of tea, and some greasy junk food, and I’ll be set for the night.I love just being with my family. There are a thousand things I SHOULD be doing right now. But every fiber of me cries out to just BE.

Just being … sitting, laughing, talking. That’s what we’ve been doing a lot of this past weekend. I had all six kids here (for those keeping track, I have four birth children, two of which have brought intelligent and beautiful in-laws into our midst over the last two summers). We also had my husband’s sister and part of her family (MORE newlyweds), as well as heart-deep friends. Our weekend was rich and dripping with dividends on relational investments we’ve made throughout the years.

And I relished in it. Just like this storm outside, those few blessed hours gave me … peace. It was a good thing.

However, we have had tremendous tragedies falling around us recently. Not our immediate family, but people we love have been through “it” these last few weeks. Like the storm, it came on fast and furious. And like most people, I attempt to make some kind of “sense” out of tragedy.

It’s an act of futility. Tragedy happens. Whether you believe in God or not, we see tragedies daily, whether then are nearby or across the world. No news here. But still, sometimes it seems like the storms are relentless and I stand back and wonder why it seems to pour out so randomly and yet sometimes so specifically on certain people over and over and over again. Unanswerable.

My own sky is cloudy today because I had to say goodbye to 2/7ths of my heart. My oldest and his lovely left for their

IMG_3318    second go-round of teaching in China (Find the kids’ blog here). I’m excited for them! They will have a GREAT year. They have beautiful and wonderful things ahead. I know … I know. But they are now in Los Angeles. And soon, will be half a world away from me.

My daughter and freaking-fabulous son-in-law are here right now. Then, they leave again and continue the job/apartment hunt … but only two hours away. Excited for them. Only good things ahead for them. Can’t wait to see what happens next. But they will be gone soon, too. Moving into their new life, whatever and wherever that might be.

My little lion boy has two weeks before he leaves for college. I can’t wait to see what happens in his life. He’s soooooo ready to go to the next step. He’s amazing, and has only good things ahead for him. And he, too, will only be two hours away. Two hours further away than he’s ever lived for more than a few days. Opposite from my daughter.

These things in my life are NOT tragedies … they are transitions. They are storm clouds sliding across the sky of my life and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar … oh. Sorry. Got lost in a musical moment. I’m back now.

Anyway … transitions. Storms.

I know that like the storms, these things come and go. Unlike tragedy, I don’t feel the need to make sense out of any of it. It’s life … pure, simple, exciting, beautiful. And I was reminded this past weekend that between the times of transitions, there are these moments of clarity when the people you love dearly are close to you, laughing uncontrollably and making the place you are so real. Like the atmosphere, after a storm. Truly sweet air.

I’ve found a new friend!

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Ok , Ok … maybe not in the sense of a “friend” that you share your life and activities with.

The internet and various social media outlets has given me the ability to stalk follow various bloggers and photographers from around the world that help me imagine something more than my midwestern limitations wrap me in day to day. Sometimes, I actually take what these amazing people say/do to heart and put it into practice. 

I think that’s one of my “biggest” issues (and no, this is not a therapy session, so you’ll just have to imagine what all my issues are if you don’t really know me) is the idea that I want to “do” so many, many things. However, most days I end up being swallowed by the “have-tos” that keep my little world (and that of my beloved family) spinning comfortably. Sure, there are adventures (the DH happens to currently be in Haiti planning trees), and I tend to not fear the new so various things happen around here that may or may not be successful (still trying to sell the family on the joys of lentils ten different ways). 

But most of my days look scarily like the day before it. And the previous week. And the unending months … the spirit of discontent is my constant advisory and ironically, one of my best friends. 

All that being said, I ran into (via a beautiful Tuscan chicken recipe found here:  My “recipes to try”) Wanderlust Kitchen (http://thewanderlustkitchen.com) this morning! Anetta has traveled extensively, and brought home with her recipes from around the world. I’ve done a little exploration around her blog, and two thoughts came to mind:

One, I want to do that.

Two, I am a failure at life, and deserve the endless piles of laundry to fold and dishes to do. 

OK, I don’t spend too much time wallowing in domestic self-pity. But it does make me wonder why I “know” what elements I want in my life and why it’s so stinking hard to commit to making certain changes. Forward motion never becomes easy. the idea that “A body at rest ends to stay at rest” is perhaps one of the truest things I’ve experienced in my life. 

All that to say … Wanderlust Kitchen inspires me to just keep swimming. Every little thing that moves me forward … moves me forward. Little things (new systems, new recipes, new adventures) are all a part of the journey that takes me from where I am to where I want to be. And that’s good. 

So go check out Wanderlust Kitchen. Challenge yourself to try something new today. And remember the cliched (but true) statement that life truly is a journey of many little steps that add up to miles on your way. 

Now I gotta go fold laundry … 

June 20

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Today would have been my mom’s 84th birthday. She will have been gone 10 years this October. Strange how the time slides by, but it all seems so fresh yet.

Because of the joyfully chaotic summer we’re having, I probably wouldn’t have stopped to think about what today was…is…for me. Until I saw an acquaintance post about her first beautiful little granddaughter, born earlier today.

The way my mind works, a lot of life is tied together in ways no one else might perceive but me (cause, you know, it’s MY life…). Seeing the preciousness of another generation started caused me to think about the generation now passing slowly away, relationship by stoic relationship.

My mom missed so much in the last ten years. When she passed, MY baby was only five…she had just started kindergarten. These last ten years have been filled with growth, and change…so much change it all sets my head swimming when I try and sit down to chronicle it all.

Just over the last five years, I’ve graduated three of my four, and sent them (or soon to be sending them) off to college. Most days, it seems like I just made that trip myself…remember how embarrassingly emotional my mom would get each time I left for my college life. I couldn’t wait to get back to my friends, my hectic schedule, new experiences and fun things. She would mourn every time for me.

I get that now. No, not quite to the extent that she did. But I was the first to break the college ceiling in my family. I knew the good things that awaited my kids.

My mom only knew I was gone. Moving on with the processing of growing up. And while she was always supportive and loving through it all…I can say she hated it.

Now, I’m the one who seems to constantly be saying goodbye.

This day has been like so many recently…full to overflowing with activity and emotions. It’s only fitting I have a few quiet minutes at the end of it to reflect about things my mom has taught me since she’s been gone.

One of the most prominent is to not mourn in the moment. There will be plenty of time for sadness and nostalgia once the kids move out and on. While it’s tough, I try desperately to live thoroughly beautiful little glimpses of life with them when they ARE near. Sometimes I fail…but I cling to the “wins,” cause I know those will keep me going when the days are dark and the “demons”seem to be winning.

And…I also remember something great my mom taught me: look forward to the times you all Are together! We are fast approaching a time when, for a brief week or is, they’ll all be under my roof. I’m trying to “live in the moment,” but I gotta tell you…I savor the thought of seeing all of them laughing and talking and just sitting in my living room like one savors a remarkably good meal.

So…happy birthday, Mom. See? I’m still learning from you, even after all these years. I’m pretty sure that process will never truly end.

How Long Does It Take?

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This is quite the question … how long does it take to do …. what? Write a novel? Finish an essay? Make money? Feel fulfilled?

I know … no one expects a philosophical discussion from a simple question, but words are important to me, and I hate assuming I know what someone “means” when I really am simply imposing my own preconceived notions onto their questions. Anyway …

When it comes to writing — to “being a writer” — I think time is irrelevant. I mean, each project, each assignment, in and of itself defines the time required of it. Let me tell you a story …

When I was in high school, I wrote a lot. I did my regular school stuff, but was also heavily into poetry, short stories, etc. I entered contests. I wrote and compiled three volumes of poetry. I did independent studies on writers and styles and was a voracious reader. I had determined to write the “Great American Novel” of my time by the time I was twenty-five. That project still lies dormant under the years of other projects, and simply living life and accomplishing all the things I feel the need to do to be successful. How long does it take? In my life, that novel has taken more than 35 years, and it sure isn’t going to be published in 2014.

Now, in the meantime, I have done hundreds of other writing projects. I do a lot of pro bono stuff for organizations, churches, etc. I’ve been involved in a few on-line projects. I’ve written numerous “beginnings” of things that may or may not be birthed anytime soon. I’ve written my Mom’s eulogy. I’ve helped write my father-in-law’s death announcement. I’ve written recommendation for tens of students going into college, getting their first job, applying for scholarships. How long does that take? Apparently the first half of a lifetime, but usually not more than a few hours per each project (which figures out to the first half of a lifetime, with my mathematical skills).

When I think about “how long does it take,” I balk at the quantization of time when it comes to writing. I believe you either “are” a writer — or you are not. And if you are a writer, you write always. Sometimes, the ideas come so strong to me that I literally have to stop what I’m doing to jot notes. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to even sit at the computer and attempt to finish a simple blogging entry (which the fighting, for me, actually takes longer because I rationalize through ever.little.thing. I can before finally relinquishing and “just sucking it up and doing it.”)

If the question is, “How long does it take to publish a book?” then the question becomes … OK, not much clearer. When you google the question, the first hit is this place: http://stevelaube.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-published/. He gives averages for the time it takes to get a finished manuscript to print in the more “traditional” way of publishing.

But we live in an age where anyone can publish, if they want to put the effort and money into it. Some of my friends publish direct to Amazon https://kdp.amazon.com/community/message.jspa?messageID=35. Others have self published using a variety of sources. Here’s some good strategies from Writer’s Digest:http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-4-best-strategies-for-savvy-self-publishers.

The bottom line is, devote yourself to writing. Every day. Pick a project of passion, something you can hang with. Learn all you can, write all you can, invest in writing friendships that you can use to help encourage you, and serve as “first line” editors you trust. Set deadlines (projects and contests can help here), and just get it done. Don’t worry about “how much time.” The question for me is always, “Do I want to write?”

This weekend, I had an old friend ask me, “So, what writing have you been working on?”

I had to truthfully say, “Absolutely nothing.” I barely consider myself a writer most days.

He was saddened by that. “You should really be writing.”

I know … I know. It’s like the person who wants to get into shape, and knows all the right answers and strategies, but just can’t pull off the discipline they need. That’s where I am right now.

And if I don’t figure the motivation formula for it all, my answer for the question “How long does it take” will be forever.

Where do you find the time?

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It’s Memorial Day weekend here where I live.

For our family, that means packing up the family trailer, dusting off all the summer stuff, making sure we have sufficient amounts of junk food and stuff we don’t eat on a regular basis, and heading off to a local campground for the weekend. Close enough that the DH can still drive back to work, but far enough away from the every day that it kinda feels like a vacation.

For our family, THIS is the “kick-off” to summer, which means a different schedule, a different pace, days that are (in theory) full of discretionary time for whatever activity we fancy.

In theory.

Summer should be a time when I “get a lot of writing done.” Notice most of the words in that phrase are fully loaded with whatever meaning and weight I attribute to them. What is “a lot”? What is “writing done”? What is “writing,” and what constitutes a level of accomplishment that makes me feel like I’ve used my time wisely for whatever creative endeavor I choose? *Sigh* Not so simple when I choose to over think the thing, just to avoid the actual act.

I’m sitting on the playground side of our little campground. There are there children playing nearby on the merry-go-round. They obviously have some type of prior relationship, because one little girl is both storyteller, self-proclaimed “captain,” and obviously thinks herself boss. Her shrill little voice seems to direct the other children, some older than she, as she attempts to control and direct the activity around her. Weirdly, the other kids follow her direction, even though there is no outside force pushing them to do so. They just follow.

I have a voice in my head like that little girl. She tends to tell me what to do and when to do it whenever external forces relent a bit and I believe I have found time to “write.” She wants to be captain, and she shrieks out directions for me … do this, don’t do this, what about this, why haven’t you this, you’ll never this … over and over and over again. Somehow, I have relented and given this “little girl” the power over me to keep me from standing up and doing that very thing which I so desire to do.

Where do I find the time to write?

I choose to take control of that voice. I remember that I have been given a certain amount of time. I can choose exactly what I do with that amount of time, however small it is.

I have kids. True, they are older now, but they still depend on me for a lot, and for that I am grateful. My time with them is so very short, and while it sounds cliché, the truth of the matter is those kids grow rapidly and before you know it, they are out making their way in this life. When they were younger, I had time to write whenever they went to bed, or were playing with their friends, or were at some extracurricular class. We have homeschooled their entire lives, which sets a different dynamic when it comes to “available time,” but it seems like I still found time to at least journal during that stage. Now, I must make a conscious effort to corral my run-away schedule and beat myself into submission if I want to get anything down on paper.

This year, in addition to our regular schedule, we have kids coming home for the summer from Oklahoma and China. There’s a graduation to implement (and along with that, a rocking open house!), and then a month later, my first daughter gets married (which, I am finding, is a lot different from your first son getting married, when it comes to details). Life flies at an incessant speed, and while I only work part-time, I do not have extended hours away in an office to work on projects. My writing takes a back seat to everyone else’s “stuff,” mostly because they (and to honest, me) don’t view it as a “real” pursuit. They’re encouraging, sure. But to be honest? The “tyranny of the urgent” almost always wins.(http://www.navfusion. com/assets/Tyranny%20of%20the%20Urgent%20[Hummel].pdf) 

So, I find myself “finding time” whenever I can get it. Sometimes, it’s like this morning. I’m up an hour before everyone else, sitting in the sunshine enjoying a “free wi-fi” weekend at the campground. I’ll knock out this essay before we go to our pancake breakfast, pack everyone up for a day trip, pick up my elderly dad and head to Ohio to celebrate my great-nephew’s graduation.

Sometimes, I force myself to sit down at my computer and write nonsense until something with some substance comes to the surface.

Sometimes, for weeks on end, I’m lucky to produce a simple journal entry.

Other times, like nanowrimo, or when one of my amazing creative friends has a project for me to consult on or edit (which is a weird thing … when I “have” to edit, it seems to spark me to write more … I know, it’s paradoxical, but true), I literally tell the family I will be writing for “this amount of time” and I closet myself away until the project is done.

And if I were totally truthful, I go for long periods NOT writing at all. Once, it was for nearly two years. Life just got the best of me, the little girl voice pushed me here and there, and I gave up. It was easier to let her boss me around than to take control of my life. A lot of people fall there, you know. But at the end of the day, we truly are a lot more in control of our situation and circumstance than we want to take responsibility for. Just saying …

So if you want to write, you have to write. Carry an “old school” notebook and pen. Always travel with your laptop. Carry one of those little spiral notebooks in your purse or pocket or car, just to jot things down. You might hear the little girl say it’s a waste of time, and you’re not REALLY writing … tell her to shut up.

And chose to find the time. I believe most of us have good stories to tell. It often seems to me good storytelling is becoming a lost art. Sitting around the campfire last night, I laughed and listened to some good stories (most of which I would not be allowed to share here), and relished the community and friendship I found.I find time for that, because it’s important.

That’s what writing is often for me, too. Bringing along a few of my friends, sitting at the campfire of the blogging world, and sharing stories, ideas, and life.

And I find for it, because despite what the little girl might say, it’s important, too.

 

Writing Blog Tour … what???

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So, I have these friends … I actually have a lot of friends who find a creative outlet through writing. The explosion of the blog-a-sphere has allowed many of my uber-talented friends to have a platform with which to express that creativity.

One said friend is a very, very “old” friend … not age-wise. but length wise … we were college roommates for a couple of summers and then some … was asked by another friend to do a “writing blog tour.”

To be honest, the thought of it freaked me out a bit.

See, I fancy myself as “a writer.” But truth be told “a writer” by very definition … writes. And while I have been told I have a way with words … and I’ve done a couple of things that wowed and inspirited “close” friends … but truthfully? As messed up as this idea is, I feel like I’ll only be a “real” writer when I make money doing it, you know?

Yeah, yeah … the monetization of the creative and all. I know, I know … I’ve told many people to NOT pay attention to that .. but in my own little world, I struggle with it all. Anyway … enough psychoanalysis. Back to the writing tour …

So awesome “old friend” Lisa (you can check her out either at: http://mirkwoodreflections.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html or http://cornerstonehomelearning.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html“When do you find the time?”) asked me to do this writing blog tour “thingy.”

It’s pretty simple: answer the following four questions about my writing process:

“Where do you find the time?”
“How long does it take?”
“Where do you get your ideas?”
“Isn’t it hard?”

SIMPLE, right??  *Sigh*

No … NOT simple! Because, to answer these questions, I have to take a good, long, hard look at myself and what I do … and if I even have the right to call myself a writer anymore because quite frankly, my life is a bit chaotic, and I barely write anything anymore unless it’s curriculum for the classes I teach, or brief one-shot comments on Facebook.

So, I decided I’d break these four question apart. That way, I’d eek out at least four (counting this one, five) posts concerning why I write, and what I do in the process.

OK, so tomorrow (or maybe the next day … I’ve got stuff to do tomorrow), I’ll be commenting on “Where do I find the time to write?” That should be a short post … seeing, I never find time to write …