Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Beginnings (Part 3)

So. I want to be a (better) writer. YIKES! 

On to steps two through four!

2. Imagine yourself finishing.
As Bethany explains, "This is bigger than visualization (though that may help).  You have to KNOW that this goal is going to be accomplished. You have to know that finishing won’t make you loved or popular or rich or famous. You have to know that you are still going to DO THIS, no matter what."

I think I'm there, actually. It's what I meant when I wrote in my last post that I'm compelled to write. I'd even go so far as to say it's an act of obedience and worship to God when I use a gift He's given me. Loaded statement, I know.

3. Quit one thing.
The idea here is that we can become so busy doing other things that we neglect THE thing we really want to do. So, quit something to make room for something else. Makes sense. My decision to be a stay-at-home mom pretty much accomplished this step. By not teaching (a.k.a. working 10 hour days plus nights and weekends), I now have time to write more often and more intentionally. Have you noticed how the number of blog posts have increased now that I'm not teaching? Ahh...

4. Make the DAILY choice.
This one's the kicker for me. Even though I love writing, I never really WANT to do it. I rarely feel inspired and ready to write. I'm always glad to have written, but not always glad to write. It's like a good work out: tough to get motivated but a great Boo-yah! Take that! feeling afterward. So, here's where my smaller, more tangible goals come in. For now, here's what being a better writer is going to look like:

  • Write every day. Whatever it is--blogging, writing a letter, journaling, drafting an essay--if I want to write, I need to do it daily. No excuses.
  • Read books on writing and do any exercises it suggests. I'm not in a position right now to take a class or join a writer's group, but I do have several books on writing sitting on a shelf at home, just waiting for me to break in their spines. At least once a week, I want to take time to read part of a book on writing and practice some of the exercises it offers. I'll try to keep you posted on what I'm reading.
  • Submit one essay to a magazine by the end of September. The point here is to practice putting myself out there. My goal isn't acceptance but experience. And when you write for a magazine, at least you have some sort of audience, even if it's just an editor sitting in her living room.
Up next: Steps 5 (Take a day off) and 6 (Have a plan for after the thing is finished). Step five has me doing backflips; step six makes me feel queasy. More to come!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New beginnings (Part 2)

You may recall the six steps to finishing something? Step number one: decide what you want.

So, here it is. Here's what I want. 
(Whew. It's a little uncomfortable to write this. 
It takes courage to say these things.)
 I want to be a writer. 

I know, eye roll, right? Everyone says that. They want to sky dive, they want to run a marathon, they want to write a book. Blah, blah, blah. But at this point, I don't even know if I want to write a book. I just know that I want to be a writer, and a writer is someone who writes--regularly. And, if I'm honest, I am a writer, but I want to be better.

Here's the thing: I don't want to write to be published (although what writer wouldn't want that?). I don't need to get paid to write (although I would happily accept money for my words). I don't want to write because I think it's a cool job (it's one of the hardest jobs I can imagine).

I want to write because I'm compelled to do it. 
It's a calling, 
a love-hate-joy-pain kind of gift that I can't shrug. 
It's not optional; I must write. 
It's in me. 

It's been in me for a long time, but that's a story for another day.

I'll be the first to say I have a lot to learn--like, a whole lot. And part of me hopes I always think that. The other part of me wants to get better, wants to find my voice, wants to gain confidence in creativity, wants to refine my craft.

Honesty moment. I'm freaking out a little right now. I'm completely insecure about putting this out there. I'm worried about what you'll think. I wonder if I even have it in me. I have this sinking feeling that this is just a whim, that I'll get all motivated and pumped up and "Yes! Let's do it!" and then in a few weeks or months or years it'll all fizzle out and mean nothing. I think all good writers have to give themselves regular pep talks to talk them down from lies like that. It takes a lot of courage to write (or to finish anything, for that matter).

What's tough about what I want is that I don't have a clear end goal (yet). I don't have a book I want to write or a magazine I want to be published in. I'm such a fledgling writer that those goals feel more burdensome than exciting. So, for now, I'm making some smaller, more realistic goals for myself. What are they? They're up next on the ol' bloggo, along with steps 2-4 (Imagine yourself finishing, Quit one thing, Make the DAILY choice). Stay tuned!

Monday, June 25, 2012

New beginnings (Part 1)

So, I have a writer friend from graduate school named Bethany. She blogs. She teaches. She writes books. Oh yeah, she runs marathons too. But here's the thing about Bethany: she'd be the first to tell you that she's not superwoman. She doesn't have special powers the rest of us don't have access to. She just knows how to set goals and go after them (and has the wisdom to know it's okay to fail sometimes too). In fact, she recently wrote a FREE eBook about it called How to Run a Marathon, Write a Book, and Still Have a Life.  It's a quick read (think 30 minutes or less) full of wisdom, reality, inspiration, and a good kick in the pants.

In the book, she has six steps to finishing something (anything):
  1. Decide what you want
  2. Imagine yourself finishing it
  3. Quit one thing
  4. Make the DAILY choice
  5. Take a day off
  6. Have a plan for after the thing is finished
So. There's something I'd like to start (and finish).  It's something I've known about myself for a long time, but I needed Bethany's kick in the pants recently to get me going on it again. More to come...

Until then, go check out the eBook and go after that thing you keep saying you'll do tomorrow! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

God, documentaries, and a movie trailer.

If you know me, you know I love a true story. It's why I read so much nonfiction, why I always watch the special features after a movie, and why I'm a sucker for documentaries. That being said, I recently watched Dan Merchant's Lord Save Us From Your Followers (FREE streaming for Amazon Prime members and most of it free, in segments, on youtube), and found it to be really interesting. He raises the question of what America (and the world, really) thinks of God and Christians and he goes all over interviewing a variety of people from all walks of life. Fascinating. If you have an extra hour and a half, I'd say it's worth your time. Check out the trailer:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Three Things Friday

I know it's not Thursday, but it's been a while since I did my "Three Things Thursday" post, and since I'm the one making the rules here, I say "Three Things Friday," while lacking in alliteration, is absolutely a go. (Besides, you probably wouldn't want to read "Five Things Friday" anyway--too many things.) So, here goes:

Thing one: It's the middle of June, but I'm setting a new goal for myself. New goals in June, you say?  I'm all for it. Want to know what it is? You'll have to wait, but it'll be worth it.

Thing two: Books I'm reading (reviews to follow when I actually finish them all):

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (thanks for the rec, Rebecca!)
  • The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
  • Jayber Crow  by Wendell Berry (I finally picked it up again and am enjoying it)
  • Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (thanks for the rec, Virginia!)

Thing three: In an effort to begin child-proofing our home, we bought a new piece of furniture with cabinets to hide our office and art supplies. I absolutely LOVE the piece (too late at night and too much work to take a picture. Sorry, folks.), but it's a chore going through all our home office stuff as well as my teaching supplies. So. much. stuff. I mean, how many post-it notes does one person really need in a lifetime? Anyway, I'm in ultra purge mode right now. Felt so good to fill a trash bag today and get it out, out, out! I'm a minimalist by nature anyway, so me vs. clutter: I'm winning. It's just gonna take me a few days to beat it into submission.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Google Reader, y'all.

So you like to read blogs. But it's a pain to try to remember everyone's blog address and then remember to check them regularly. You keep meaning to find that one blog you like but it's just too much trouble. So you don't. You give up and close the door on some quality blog reading.

Enter Google Reader. For some of you, this is so four years ago, but I'm finding that lots of people from lots of generations haven't heard of it. So I'm going to help you out.

Here's the scoop: Google Reader is a free service where you can "subscribe" to blogs you like to read and have them all in one place. It has options like only viewing blogs that have been updated (so you don't have to try to remember if you've read that entry before), and it's easy to check as often as you'd like.

Don't be intimidated. This is not some over-your-head thing that requires a computer science degree to figure out. There are two ways to get started:

  1. If you have a gmail account, all you have to do is choose the "more" button on the tab at the very top of your gmail screen. From there, choose "Reader."
  2. If you don't have a gmail account, simply go to and choose the "more" button on the tab at the very top of your google screen and choose "Reader."
Either route takes you to the same destination. After a short sign up process that does NOT result in unwanted emails later, you'll be on the Reader landing page. Click on the red "Subscribe" button and copy and paste any blog's address that you'd like to follow into the box that appears. After clicking "add," the blog link should appear in the bottom left of your screen and from there you can read blogs, see who's updated theirs, and adjust your settings. Easy peasy. 

Just in case you need a starting point, I hear the blog Still. Pictures. is pretty good. Winky face.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


We didn't make our bed. Not once. 
I took a bath. 
We took a 45-minute walk alone on the beach. 
Our family of three snuggled in bed in the mornings.
We laughed a lot.
I didn't wear makeup.
I finished several cups of coffee while they were still hot.
We slept through the night. Most nights.
We spent most of our waking hours with Phil's family--people we love, love, love.
We introduced Moo to the beach and the pool and the wonder that is a lazy river.

Of course we had plenty of reality too: 
Three loads of laundry.
Bedtime fussiness.
Hot hours spent indoors.
Rainy days.
Flash floods on the way down there.
A call that our house alarm had been tripped (false, thankfully).
Blah, blah, blah.

But we were away. Together. For a week.
Limited things tugging at our time.
I barely even checked my phone and email.
I didn't write.
I only read a little.
I didn't make phone calls.
I was just PRESENT.

We spent lots of time with family. 
Watching kids play.
Playing with kids.
Watching a movie.
Listening to music.
Just BEING together.

And it was marvelous.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My weather guy

Have you ever noticed how the people on the news start to feel like acquaintances, like people you've known for years? We see them all the time and something about their face inside a screen elevates them to untouchable celebrity status while also making them feel like a friend. We see them at the post office and whisper to the person next to us, "Isn't that (fill in the blank)?" We marvel that they are human doing human things like sending a package or (gasp) grocery shopping. It's hard to imagine them out of that matching red suit or the tie and blazer.

This time it wasn't the post office or the grocery store where I had my semi-celeb sighting; I recently helped host a baby shower at my meteorologist's home (long story). I had never met him. I felt like I had met him, but I hadn't, which made it feel awkward right there. I was scrounging for conversation material. I mean, what do you talk about with your weather guy? The weather? Come on. So, we talked about music for a while, about singing in church choirs, and the Episcopal church downtown, about the piano in his sitting room. And then I was glad for the diversion of more guests arriving and needing to get them drinks and take their gifts.

So, there you have it. Meteorologists are real people who wear jeans and eat burgers and water their gardens and have two dogs at home that have funny names.

What about you? Have you had any interactions with news personalities? Did you sense that awkwardness? If so, I feel ya.

Captain Observant

In the eight years I've known my husband and six and a half years we've been married, he's had what he calls a "flavor savor." On occasion, it's the "soul patch." Y'all know what I'm talking about. That little patch of hair underneath the bottom lip that says, "I'm cool; you know it." But that was never his attitude or purpose in having it. He just decided to shave it that way one day and I liked it, so he kept it. Fast forward eight years and it was still there.

We talked a while back about when might be the right time to shave it. I didn't want him being that 45-year-old youth minister type with frosty tips trying too hard to look young and hip. Phil said it was time to shave it when I told him it was time (good man). He didn't want to be that guy either. He also insists that making sure he doesn't look like a doofus in public is a my job. I accept.

So, a few weeks ago, I told him it was time--whenever he was ready. And then I went about my week.

A few nights later, we were going to bed and had been talking for a good 45 minutes. We'd had dinner together and had been in the same house all evening. Finally, he looked at me and said, "Do you notice anything different about me?" I didn't. He had to give me a hint before I realized that his face was completely smooth for the first time since I'd known him. I had to laugh at myself for not realizing it all evening.

Since then, we've spent time with friends and family and not one person has noticed without us pointing it out. Message received: it was time. But he's still cool in my book.

Side note: how cute are these two? My two favorite men in the world!
Side, side note: more to come on the blog soon! Vacation, Father's Day, pictures, and my local weather guy. Have I piqued your interest yet?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Solitude, Community, Ministry

So. Here's where I am in the process of transitioning to a stay-at-home mom. Mostly, I'm convinced that God is calling me to slow down, to create space in my life for Him to fill. My tendency is to get busy! get productive! do something! BUT. Not now.

In his article, "Solitude, Community, and Ministry: Three Ways to Make Space for God," Henri Nouwen explores how God calls us to those three practices--in that order. In case you don't have five minutes to read it, here's a recap:

  • Solitude: Solitude is essential and allows us enough quiet in our lives to hear the truth that we are deeply known and deeply loved by God. When solitude is absent, we often miss that truth because of all the other voices around us and live our lives wondering "Am I loved?"instead of resting in the fact that we are loved.
  • Community:  Nouwen outlines two parts: forgiveness and celebration. Forgiveness: "Forgiveness means the willingness to always forgive people for not being able to fulfill all your needs....disappointment should lead me to forgive my fellow human beings for not being God, for not being able to give me all I need and all I desire. I should also ask forgiveness constantly, again and again, that I cannot offer people that unconditional love I would like to offer." Celebration: "Celebration means to lift up the gifts of the people with whom we live."
  • Ministry: Through both compassion and gratitude we give our lives away for others--a beautiful, overwhelming, difficult concept.
While all three of these should be present in my life, the order of them makes sense to me. It's hard to have ministry without community, hard to have community without first being alone. So, for now I'm focusing mostly on the solitude stage. I'm slowing down. I'm trying to block out distractions, busyness, the flutter of activity, trying to embrace the simple life, trying to be okay with not producing at light speed, trying to listen to God for what's next. I'm looking forward to how that will propel me into community with my neighbors, friends, and people I have yet to meet. And then, after all that, I'm excited to see how He will use my gifts to give my life away to others, whatever that may look like. 

Four days worth

I've been a stay-at-home mom for exactly four days and it's been a smooth transition so far. Sure, I've had some Groundhog Day moments of didn't we just do this yesterday an hour ago? but for the most part, staying home has been a joy. Last week, I was there when Moo learned how to kiss--probably because we kiss those soft, chubby cheeks at least a thousand times a day. Now that boy will kiss any baby he sees--in person or in a book--and he kisses his reflection in the mirror. Sometimes he'll pucker up, but more often than not, he goes in for it with all the slobbery, open-mouth excitement he can. Come to think of it, he could probably teach my 9th graders a thing or two! I love being there for things like that--the cute kisses from Moo, not the awkward ones between two 9th graders. Anyway, here are a few things I've learned while staying at home (all four days of wisdom, you're welcome very much):
  • Children laughing: one of the best. sounds. ever.
  • Children's music is unbelievably memorable. I go to sleep every night singing some silly song I heard on my children's Pandora station. 
  • Speaking of music, I pretty much make up my own stupid songs all day about whatever we're doing. Probably just filling the silence that I'm not used to, but Moo thinks it's funny and if I stop long enough to hear myself, I think it's pretty funny too. 
  • Strangers are much nicer and neighbors actually come outside to talk when you have a kid. I'll take it.
  • Lifting an 18 lb., 10 oz. weight multiple times a day will make your back hurt, despite trying to lift with your legs. On the bright side, my arms are pretty toned. :)
  • Baby food is delicious. Not that I'm eating my child's baby food for lunch or anything, but the stray glob here and there from feeding him tastes pretty darn good. They make such interesting combinations (pumpkin banana, anyone?) that I can't help trying it!
  • Being a mom (stay at home or otherwise) is hard work. This is nothing new, but it bears repeating. In the words of my wise mother, parenting is not for the weak!
  • Time slows down between the hours of 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. It's an inexplicable time warp phenomenon. 
Deep thoughts to come. That's all for now.