Saturday, September 25, 2010


A little more tweaking this evening perhaps, and I think my Three Minute Story is set to be sent off to NPR. Not sure if I should or not, I had my son, D, look over it. "Be gentle," I urged. What if his response led me to... oh, anything that created more work for myself. Tomorrow is the deadline, after all. He's leaving his until then. Show-off.

Later on he came to me and gave me some feedback and we discussed it. There were areas where I chose to be less than descriptive, and he looked for more details. He peppered me with questions, and I explained the intentions and purposes behind my choices. Then I left to meet a friend for an appointed coffee date, using the drive to muse and ponder.

I'm not sure what I'll do just yet. I don't know if I'll know until I return to my story and re-read it tomorrow morning. But I came to some realizations. With a word limit such as has been given, the temptation is to say, "Well, how much can you really expect to do within 600 words? I can't really create all I'd like to. It can't be done. I only have 600 words, after all." This is Point A.

But great writers work in another realm, Point B, and say, "I have to make it work within those 600 words." The limit is a fact from which creation is called forth and gives defining distinction to the form.

One who aspires to be a great writer reaches for Point B from Point A and responds, "I have to at least try to capture something original and real within these 600 words."

That's me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Is Not Zen

As I sat in the chair at Great Clips today with a hairdresser who alternated between silence and shouting nasally in my ear at her co-worker, the full reality of 'leaving myself for last' nestled comfortably into my lap and looked up at me.

"So, what are you doing here?" he asked with his big, knowing eyes.

I thought. Images of my own dear Mother many years ago, always denying herself, evidenced by her three interchangable pantsuits hanging in the closet; the seven weeks of hair growth showing clearly at my roots; my finger, naked these past three months since I lost my wedding ring, despite my husband's urgings to replace it; my etch-a-sketch glass lenses desperately needing to be tossed; my busy schedule with time for exercise getting 10th place, meaning it rarely gets in the game; my CRV's defunct air-conditioning to which I respond by rolling down the windows in this hot Carolina heat; my lagging replacement of matching socks (nobody sees my feet most of the time anyway), my ultra-stretching or complete missing of my makeup foundation; the way I've learned to extend and wait and do without.

It's what I come from. We tear up our own old clothes and use these for our cleaning rags, we always run water in our shampoo, conditioner, detergents and soaps so that the inside of the bottle is thoroughly clean before throwing it out, we pull cotton balls into smaller pieces so as to get the most use out of them, we wear our jeans several times before washing, we always cook enough to have leftovers and often get "creative" with the third and fourth rounds, we never throw away something we don't care for - we use it until done and learn from that purchase not to buy that again, and we always look for the sale, coupon, discount, and off-season deal. This is not only very familiar to me - I dearly believe in it. All other choices seem wasteful and go against good stewardship in my heart.

"So. That's all there is to it?" was his calm response, as my ultra-quick cut was completed and I walked out, running my fingers through my still dripping hair.

Where does being comfortable with yourself as you are meet with up with caring for yourself as you know you are to care for others? When does the realization that so much of this is dross cross over into a lack of love (being a verb) for yourself? How does one distinguish between whether you are being satisfied and uncomplaining or a lazy martyr? I don't know if I've got that figured out yet. One of those things I'm still working on.

The thing is, I'm usually pretty content with what I have and what I don't. And I know that sooner or later I will get to what needs getting to. What doesn't will fade away. I could just as readily write up a list of those things I have, and for which I am thankful. I guess, well, I guess sometimes I just get a bit embarrassed by things that shouldn't matter, and wonder if they should matter more.

Like I said, I'm in a constant state of straining to conciliate the 'now and what is' with 'who I am'.

*Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.

This truth is greater than any momentary self-consciousness, discomfort, or frustration I may struggle with. Working through it or not, this I know.

*Hebrews 13:5

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Type-Trash Is My Friend

I have a half an hour to write before I shoot out the door for the evening.

Well, after ruminating for a while I tossed my initial idea for the Three Minute Fiction out. I came up with a secondary story, sat down and began tapping away, intermittently back-spacing, cleaning up as I went along. My right hand was really getting rather sore with all the deleting I had to do. Writers always have that proverbial trash can nearby, hoop shots and slam dunks filling and overfilling it. But things have changed and in this day and age we hit backspace and erase over and over again. I have dubbed it type-trash, not wanting to let go completely of my old imagery.

I have written a full 528 of the allotted 600 words, leaving what I hoped was a decent amount of room for deleting, revising, and polishing off. But five full days have gone by and my thinker has been tinkering, and coming up with much more major changes than I'd expected. It's a good thing I still have another four days because a pretty sizeable shift in my scenario has developed. Ah well, I wasn't completely sold on Story Two anyway - and I knew it, but I figured anything was better than nothing.

Still do.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three Minute Challenge

Three hours there, three hours back. I drove to Raleigh yesterday to visit R, take him to lunch and soak in the dearness of him and how the Lord is working in and shaping him. Truly priceless, and I treasured every second.

The drive there was given to out-loud prayer, first and foremost. I love the cloister of communication my car becomes when I am out and about. A long drive is perfect for uninterrupted conversation, pleas and requests, the savoring of thanks.

Then I called my Mom and we gadded about all the happenings in our concentric circles of family, sharing our concerns and joys. Sisters, brothers, children, mamas and papas - we covered them all with a quilt of love and care, shaking our heads over the lines in laughter or the bearing of burdens.

It wasn't until the drive back that I actually turned on the radio. News and events and special pieces were given my attention as the asphalt flew beneath me and the sun began its descent for the day. As I listened, my ears tingled. A true gem was being shared. Have you ever heard of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Challenge? Well, last night the bell for Round Five was rung. The first and last lines of a short story are given, and it is up to you to fill in the body - which cannot exceed 600 words. Oh. My. Gosh. How fun!!

The first line is: "Some people swore that the house was haunted."
The last line must be: "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

Rather pedantic, but oh well. Mentally, I began considering this proposition. I envisioned pulling out a wooden drawer full of door knobs, digging through them as I looked for my story. Why door knobs? Symbols of openings into closed off rooms, I suppose. It quickly became apparent there would be no time for development, immediacy would be elemental. One or possibly two characters only. Who would they be? Regarding the story itself - Genre? Setting of time and place? And what would precipitate the last line? I dismissed the miraculous as being too abstract and quite honestly, unbelievable, to most of today's audience. The weird or macabre would probably receive a better reception, but my days of foraying into those realms are past.

I think I know where I'm going, or at the very least I at least have an idea. That's the first step. What a brilliant invitation!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I Want To Be In My Other Life When I Grow Up

I only went to community college for a year or so, and never yearned for more. Once, when sitting and reminiscing about our youth with a few friends, I realized that I was the only one who didn't have a hankering to go back to college days. Could be that I just didn't know what I was missing. But that had never been what I wanted. I always had dreamt of being a Mom, and as hard as reality may have crashed up against the dream at times, in my heart of hearts it still was what I wanted. I'm one of those fortunate few who actually got to do what I love.

But a few years ago I was watching a movie with my kids and I saw somebody doing something that made me cry out with surprise, "he has my dream job!" It was Dan In Real Life. (I never could see what he saw in her, so that was an empty spot, but there are some really, really funny scenes in this movie.) Anyway, there he was. He was working from home as the voice of sanity in an advice column on parenting. The setting, the marriage of my two loves - being a parent and writing; draped over the couch, I sighed with true longing.

Well as amazing as that was, imagine my surprise at discovering another occupation I covet as well. While riding my recumbent bike I watch episodes of the show Lie To Me and wish I could be working with Cal Lightman, learning the tricks of the trade alongside him. He is a master at reading face and body language, and the truth or lie cannot escape his keen detection. I was a dedicated liar myself, up to a certain age. But let's not go into past history right now. Perhaps its true that we hate most those sins we have held closest to ourselves. Sitting around the dinner table with my family the other night, I shared my fantasy aspirations to become a human lie detector. My girls are quite grateful that my already delicately honed skills of perception have no further school in which to be perfected. I'd have felt the same when I was their ages, I suppose. Lucky for them Cal is imaginary.

I guess I'll just have to do my best to combine what I can into this life. That's a pretty good option, actually.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School

While recuperating from a bit of surgery earlier this past summer, I began my planning for the coming school year. I created a rough outline for a typical week, chose the material we would cover, and decided upon an official start date. When I was a girl I remember quite a few years when school would begin on my birthday, August 25th. So, we would leave ample room for celebration there. My husband's is Labor Day, so we would make sure to eliminate all distractions from his special birthday week (he came with one.) Free and clear, with plenty of summer behind us, September 7th - perfect.

The girls' birthdays are later on in the month, but we have to be practical - school must start sometime. Unfortunately, as the day approached, I must admit I'd really done nothing more to prepare for the year beyond what I'd managed to pull together back in June. Well, ready or not, today's the day.

We are bringing out the books I have stored as we approach each subject. Moans and sighs were silenced as they left their complaining and remembered that learning is actually sort of fun. We began by bringing out a new book the girls will be going through - Don't Check Your Brains At The Door and I read the intro. I think they will really enjoy this one. For our actual study today, however, we discussed Proverbs 10 verses 14-16, and read a bit more of the Harris brothers' Do Hard Things. We prayed and then sang a song of praise together via Hearts were then in the right places.

Confession: we made quite slow progress in math last year. I can't completely fault the girls. Let's just say excessive scenery watching during an overabundance of car-schooling presented certain challenges to advancement. They have more than made up for it during the summer months, and I am so proud of how they have begun really flying in Math. Today I decided we would have a light load and do what we refer to as Fun Math. They completed four pages in Mathematical Reasoning with happy spirits.

When I was a kid, my Mom would dread the beginning of school. Oh, she was fine with the six of us traipsing off out the door for the day once again, but the beginning of school meant we would return with those discombobulated supply lists. How she hated them. To this day I am still not sure which is the notebook, folder, binder, or composition book. And adding 1 or 3 subjects to it, college versus wide lined paper, fine or medium point pens in black or blue, etc. Multiply this times six and all the varying requirements - we were bound to return with corrections from our teachers about something not being the right something. "What does it matter?!" she would cry.

Well, as a homeschool Mom it really doesn't matter quite so dearly to me - clearly, as I don't even have our appropriate readers out yet. But I did get one thing done, the most important thing, in fact. I decided that I would get the girls' backpacks ready for them with things that would add joy, fun, and excitement to the start of their year. So, with a theme of pink for A and blue for L, they received their packs filled with treasures. A binder, two notebooks, a bookmark, sticker sheets, a ruler with the books of the bible on it, a cute travel pillow for those times in the car, jump ropes, a pack of gum, a teeny-tiny little plastic figurine (butterfly for A/ horse for L), a wind-up toy, and a variety of fidgety trifles to stimulate thinking or calm restlessness depending upon the need. Oh, and a mascot for their year - L has a little grey pup called Scrap and A has a pink poodle she named Kandy. Their thanks and delight was their gift to me.

We returned with gusto to one of their favorite subjects. I find Science so rewarding because of the girls' eager fascination with each module. They can get a bit competitive, but it's a healthy competition. I opened the pages to preview our future subjects and was not disappointed. L especially responded with animation to the idea of studying the atmosphere, light, and gravity. An interested student is a wonderful prize.

It's lunch time now. This afternoon we may touch upon Language Arts, Spanish, Geography, and History. Maybe.... But I will have them pull out the wonderful books that will fill our year and we'll reorganize our shelves, putting up a fresh and waiting poster of the Presidents on the wall. It's been a really great start.

And now a few quotes, 'cause I just can't help myself when it comes to the gift of learning:

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. ~Christopher Morley

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond compare. ~Kenko Yoshida

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a mother who read to me.
~Strickland Gillilan

Special thanks to my Mama who always encouraged my love for words.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Parting Words

For some time now I've wanted to include two additional categories to my posts, both born of my love for the import and conveyance of words. One vein would be book reviews, but I've decided that would be redundant. I already have my Goodreads tag on the side, and there is ample opportunity to write my personal cogitations there upon completion of a book.

The second has been a section devoted to the resonance other people's words have found within me. I am often conflicted when reading a book - do I mar the maiden beauty of its pages with garish highlighter, scraggly underlinings, and personal graffiti of thought? I dance a jig of undecisiveness over and back again, alternating between do and don't. While this won't necessarily put decisive restraint upon my fits and starts of mental additions to an author's communique, it is an attempt to better organize them and perhaps do them more fitting justice.

I recently came across this line from A.A. Milne.
“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Christopher Robin to Pooh

I want my children to know this about themselves. I never told my kids they could be President of the United States. I avoided the word "pride", choosing to encourage them towards well-earned feelings of satisfaction and contentment instead. As I looked towards their futures, my aims were to help them develop eyes to discern the Lord's leading among all the possibilities, rather than to see the wide scope and breath of all the world offered to them. I've always striven to shine an honest light upon their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

In today's world, I see parents, educators, and society at large making a major mistake, creating a monster with two heads. Too much focus is being placed upon accomplishment for the sake of attention. So on the one hand a stellar test score is becoming the summation of their identity, and on the other such strings are being pulled so that no one leaves without a trophy. Its not working, because none of these aims leave our children with an authentic understanding of themselves. I read a recent report on the state of our nation's graduating students. The powers that be are in a continual tizzy about how to change the sad state of affairs for the up and coming leaders of our future, as though they can somehow find and turn the key.

Our family enjoys inspiring movies. Ever seen Stand and Deliver, Cinderella Man, Freedom Writers, Master and Commander, Remember the Titans, October Sky, Miss Potter, or the recent and highly recommendable Temple Grandin? Just to name a few. ;D

In each story there was adversity to overcome. We teach our children - Jesus said, *"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart - I have overcome the world."

In each there is a decision to be made as to whether they will work for a goal or stay stagnant in mediocrity or less. We impress upon our kids the importance of choice - Moses said, **"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."

And lastly, there was someone who faithfully encouraged, pushed, and stood by them. We live to make sure our children know that in this tough world, in which they are responsible for their choices, we dearly love and believe in them - in Paul's words,*** "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Christ is, has, holds, and turns The Key. Our children need to know, know, know this. And secondly, I pray that people everywhere have someone who tells them that they are braver, and stronger, and smarter than they realize, and that this may this give them courage to reach, and stretch, and grow. The simple love and faithfulness found between Christopher Robbin and Pooh is all too often neglected between people today. When you part, will someone remember such words from you to them?

*John 16:33
**Deuteronomy 30:19
***Phillipians 1: 3-6