Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tasty Excuses

I once said that I would never be able to fit in any clothes smaller than a size ten because of my extra-large birthing hips.  I now must face the reality that half my readers have probably stopped reading because I used the phrase "birthing hips" in the first sentence of this post.  If you're still reading, then I am happy to report that I am now a size six in pants and a size four in dresses. 

I once said that I would never be a runner.  I'm still not anything amazing, but I've come a long way from the girl who used to get completely wiped out after running just half a mile.  I am hoping to do a 10K in the fall, and then I might look into doing a half marathon in the spring.  We'll see what happens...

Anyway, I've been eating a lot of my words lately, and well, they actually taste pretty good.  The trouble is, the excuses I made that kept me from attempting the things I've accomplished lately also tasted pretty good when I was saying them.  "I'll never be truly skinny, so I guess it's okay to just keep eating whatever I want whenever I want."  "I'll never really be thin, so I'll just exercise occasionally.  And if my body feels like running, I'll just stick with walking anyway, because I can't keep up the running very long."  "I've got too much going on in my life to make time for exercise."  "It's too expensive to eat healthy foods when a box of mac and cheese is so cheap and will last me two or three meals." 

These things tasted really good while I was saying them.  They gave me all the reasons I needed to keep being fat, to keep being lazy, to keep being unhealthy.  And maybe some of them were true for a while.  I remember the first time I tried to start the diet and exercise routine in February of 2009, my grandmother died, and I wasn't able to deal with grief and all the other stuff in my life.  Diet and exercise was too much to add to all that was going on at that particular moment in my life.  That set me back a year...but it didn't set me back forever.

So I guess sometimes there are valid excuses, but I don't think they can be allowed to sustain you for very long.  Excuses are like food that's bad for you.  They taste good, but they aren't good for you.  They make you fat and comfortable while not really nourishing you.  And over the past year and a half, I've had to exchange all the tasty dessert words for other words.  Instead of saying, "Oh, there's no reason for me to do this because I'll never succeed," I've had to say, "I'm going to give this a try and see what happens."  Those words aren't as comfortable.  They aren't ice cream words.  They are carrot stick words.  Carrot sticks still taste good (to me anyway), but they aren't as comfortable and easy as a bowl of ice cream. 

But carrot sticks are good for you.  And doing something uncomfortable is good for you.  And it's easy to get proud of myself for accomplishing this amazing feat of losing 50+ pounds (60 is right around the corner!), especially when I discovered yesterday that I can totally rock a super cute size four dress.  But the truth is, there are a lot of areas in my life where I'm still eating too much ice cream. 

The prayer and Bible reading has gotten way off track lately.  It's easy and comfortable to sit under the banquet table God's prepared and wait for Him to throw scraps of grace to me, but He's invited me to sit at the table and dine with Him--if only I wouldn't be too lazy to get up off the floor. 

The writing.  Oh, yes, the writing.  It's like I've taken some kind of extended vacation from that.  Have I been busy?  Yes.  Last week was not an excuse--it was a reality.  I had other things to do besides writing, and they were vitally important.  But right now?  I'm housesitting.  I'm in a big house with a cat and it's really quiet.  It's like a retreat where I have time and space to write (when I don't have to go to work--sigh).  Am I writing?  No.  I'm watching cable tv and living it up.  It's easy to help myself to that big bowl of ice cream excuse that says, "I don't have cable at my apartment.  I don't usually watch tv like this.  When am I going to have another opportunity to watch such exciting and important programming as 'I Kid with Brad Garret'?"  Yeah.  The ice cream is tasty and comfortable, but not at all nourishing.  And I need some carrot sticks in my writing life for sure.  Maybe even a salmon filet.

This isn't to say that ice cream is necessarily bad.  I've lost weight and I still have something frivolous to eat almost every day (life without chocolate is almost not worth living).  Sometimes we need to excuse ourselves from work, from drama, from the daily grind of life.  It's just that we need to keep those excuses in balance--and I've said it before and will say it again--I'm horrible at balancing.  We can't live off ice cream and cake.  Those things have to be integrated meagerly into a steady diet of protein and vegetables and real solid food. 

I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm hoping to eat some of my words again.  All I can do is keep giving life a good try.  There will be failures and false starts, but as long as I keep choosing to risk instead of choosing what's safe and comfortable, I don't think I can truly be called a failure.

But no matter what else happens, I can still totally rock that super cute size four dress.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SEW Sunday: Grace

I think I'm going to change SEW Sunday to something more generic, because this week I have absolutely nothing to report in the writing world.  I'm supposed to use SEW Sundays to talk about what's going on with the queries I'm SENDING, the stories I'm EDITING, and the stories I'm currently WRITING.  But I've kind of realized lately that while the writing stuff is very important, there are going to be times when I don't do anything with it.  And that's okay.  I mean, just because I'm not writing or working on something that has to do with writing does NOT necessarily mean I'm not doing other things that are important.

This week, writing was pretty much out of the question.  Why?  Because I worked from 8-5:30 every day except for Thursday (Thursday I worked 8-1 and then went home and took a nap because I was BURNT OUT from the rest of the week), and then Monday-Friday I had VBS from 5:45-8:30ish.  So most days I left my apartment at 7:45 a.m. and didn't see it again until 8:45 p.m. or later.  And when I got home, my brain didn't exactly feel like doing writing stuff...or much of anything else.  I didn't even exercise this week--though I probably sweat off a couple pounds just standing outside with VBS.

I had a very busy week.  I also had an amazingly good week.  It doesn't matter that the only writing I did was to jot down a few lines of poetry for a song I've been trying to write.  What matters is that I got to spend time with three of my favorite young ladies (The Princess, The Diva, and The Drama Queen) along with their cousin who was there all week.  We played games and made root beer floats and went to the pool and just spent time together.  And at the end of the week, just when I was wondering how these four girls had NOT gotten sick to death of me, they all bombarded me with HUGE hugs and "I love yous" that made every second of that wonderful time we'd spent together even more amazing.

I love my girls.  I'm very excited about the days I'm going to get to spend with them this summer.  But I also worked my Saturday at the drop-in center, where I had not worked all week, and I realized that I really like it there, too.  I know there's days when the kids drive me crazy, but I have to admit I love them, too.  Sometimes the ones that drive me the most crazy are the ones I end up liking the most.  And I love the people I work with.  They're some of the most encouraging young ladies I've ever met.  So work, while often stressful, is also a joy.  And I don't deserve to have this kind of joy, but God's given it to me anyway.

I don't have a lot compared to what a lot of people think is a lot.  I live from paycheck to paycheck most of the time.  Sometimes I have more than enough.  More often I have just enough to squeeze by.  Sometimes I find myself in dire need of that next paycheck so I can go buy a half gallon of milk, a jar of peanut butter, and a bag of carrots to make it through to the next week (I live on more than that, but those seem to be my staples lately).  I'm working a lot of weird hours at a lot of jobs.  I don't have a husband or kids.  I don't have a house with a swimming pool in the suburbs.  But I've always got enough.  I have a roof over my head every time I go to sleep at night.  I never have to go hungry.  I've got clothes to wear and books to read and even a borrowed computer to type on.  I've got a car.  I'm really quite blessed materially...even if I'm poor compared to a lot of other Americans. 

And I'm blessed in a lot of other ways, too.  I'm smart enough to get by.  I have talents.  I have TONS of amazing friends.  I've got a great family--even if they live far away--who always offers me love.  I have work to do.  I have dreams and passions and hopes. 

And I have Jesus. 

This week, I volunteered with VBS out in one of the local communities.  I don't feel that I was very important (and I wasn't--but then none of us really are--we just have worth in God).  I was just a craft leader (the leader with scissors!).  I tried to connect some of the lessons, but I'm not sure I did that great of a job of it.  But I'm a fairly good watcher/listener when I really set my mind to it, and I did a lot of observing of other volunteers and kids who came to VBS.  There was one boy who stood out to me.  Well, he stood out to everybody, because he was one of the most boisterous kids I've ever seen. 

I'm going to call him Jeremiah, but that's not his real name.  On the first night of VBS, he informed his Bible Study leader (Pastor Bryan) that he and his family didn't have a Bible.  On the second night of VBSME and even I could be His witness even in the uttermost parts of the earth.

And I found myself weeping (controlled weeping--I didn't want to cause a scene) at the end of VBS as Pastor Randy was telling all of this to us.  Why?  Was it because I rejoiced that through our small efforts God was doing something amazing?  Was it because through our small efforts, God was working in the lives of a small boy named Jeremiah and possibly his entire family?  Was it because through our small efforts, God was showing His almighty power? 

The answer is yes.  But there's more.  And I'm not sure I can even begin to type out what I really want to say.

See, it's grace that God gives us when He saves us.  It's grace that any of us are able to come to Him at all.  It's amazing grace that finds the lost and gives sight to the blind (and we sang that in church this morning, just reiterating everything that's been going on in my brain for the past several days).  Apart from God, we're nothing.  With God, we have all we could ever need.  So grace saves us.  Grace brings us from darkness to light, from death to life.  In God, we have hope for our own futures.

But God didn't stop there.  And I don't know why He chose to make the world in this way, nor do I know why He'd want any of us to begin with.  But grace is even more amazing because grace does more than just save us.  God does more than just save us.  God chooses us, desires us, calls us to be the conduits of His grace to other people.  When God saves us, He doesn't just leave us alone.  That would be too little for someone as great as our God. 

He wants His people to glorify Him.  He. Uses. Us.  And that can look like so many things.  It can look like someone giving away all they have to go be a missionary in Thailand.  It can look like someone going downtown with some sandwiches and Bibles to give to homeless people.  It can look like something as simple as someone volunteering to do crafts with VBS, because even if I didn't feel that important, I know God wanted me there--both for those kids and for myself.  Because I definitely got a blessing out of this week. 

The thing is, when God gives me a blessing, that doesn't mean I just get to sit around in my blessedness patting myself on the back.  God blesses His people so that they are able to share that blessing with others.  And I'm still learning what that looks like for me.  I have a feeling it doesn't look like just one thing for me, and it probably doesn't look like just one thing for anyone.

Because it's really easy to get into the trap of thinking that God's preparing me for something BIG in the future, and I look forward to that.  But the truth is that while God may or may not be preparing me for something BIG in the future, God's also doing a lot of little things in my life right here and now.  And if I keep looking too far ahead, I might miss what He's doing now.  And right now, there's a lot that I don't want to miss.  I don't want to miss a minute of this summer with my girls.  I don't want to miss a moment of crazy wonderfulness with my co-workers.  I don't want to miss any of the summer stuff going on at my church.  I don't want to miss anything God does in me or through me.  And I'm learning what that looks like.  And it's a crazy insane adventure that I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try...

The most important theme for me personally from this week of VBS was from a simple refrain from one of the kids' favorite songs.  The song was "the rap song" according to the kids, but it was really called "Why Don't You?"  And it had John 3:16 laid out in a cool little rap that will get stuck in kids' (and VBS leaders') heads forever--which is a very good thing.  But the refrain of the song is what I needed to hear.  "We trust Jesus because He loves us."  And then came the question, "Why don't you?" 

I keep coming back to the same thing.  If I believe God is good, loving, and able, then why don't I trust Him?  I have to keep repeating to myself that simple refrain, personalizing it slightly.  "I trust Jesus because He loves me."  And He does love me.  And He wants me.  And He calls me.  And He gives me grace.  So I should trust Him.  I'm learning.  This summer has already proven to be an adventure.  I trust it will continue to be so.  I'm looking forward to autumn, but also trying to truly live right here and now.  Because God is here and now.  And His love and grace are here and now.

Will there be time for writing?  Yes.  I do have to be diligent to do that.  But honestly, I don't have any guilt over not writing this week.  I did a lot of living.  I mean, I even held a python this week.  I think that earns me a Get Out of Writing Free card for the week, don't you? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fiction Friday: Vampires!

Last Friday I didn't do a Fiction Friday because I was all tired and stuff from being out in the sun too long (because I'm like a vampire when it comes to the sunshine), which led me to the idea that maybe I should blog about vampires for this Fiction Friday.  And here it is, Friday again, and here I am staring at the screen wondering how a week passed me by.  I guess Ferris Bueller was right: "Life moves pretty fast, and if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might just miss it."  But I didn't start this blog intending to talk about Ferris Bueller...unless Ferris Bueller is a vampire, and I seriously doubt it since he went out in the sun and didn't burst into flames and/or sparkle.  And because he doesn't brood and/or kill people.  And vampires apparently brood and/or kill people.

The thing is, I really don't know much about vampires.  And I'm embarrassed to say that most of what I do know is more of the Twilight variety of bleeding heart vampires (who don't have actual bleeding hearts, but I digress) who hate themselves for being what they are than the Dracula variety of cold-blooded killer vampires who just want some blooooood.  I've never even read Dracula, which pretty much means I suck (was that a pun?  Maybe I should've said that I bite).  I've read that Interview With The Vampire book, and, while I liked it, I just wasn't interested enough about it to want to read more in the series.  I've read some book called The Silver Kiss that is about a reluctant vampire who falls in love and does some other stuff (I read it back in high school--like fifteen years ago and don't remember much).  And then of course I went through my Twi-hard phase where Twilight was the greatest thing ever.  I read all the books multiple times.  Now, I still like the books, but they're not my favorites or anything.  I've moved past that sparkly brooding vampire obsession stage in my life.

I've also read the Bunnicula books by James Howe, which are pretty much some of the coolest books ever written.  Just mentioning that because I think you should go check them out from the library RIGHT NOW if you haven't read them yet.

So now I'm left to wonder about vampires.  What are they like?  Let's start with the things that always seem to be true about vampires in just about every book written about them.  They drink blood.  They are undead.  They are pale.  Um.  That's about all I can think of.  Oh.  And vampire children are a bad idea.  I see that theme popping up a lot.

There are only a few things authors seem to agree on about vampires, but there is a LOT that they don't agree on.  Do vampires burst into flames in the sunshine, or do they merely sparkle like diamonds?  Do they sleep in coffins or do they even sleep at all?  Do they have fangs or just razor sharp, venom-coated teeth?  Can they turn into bats and fly around in the dead of night?  Do vampires have souls?  Are they afraid of garlic and crucifixes?  Do they want girlfriends or just a lot of tasty, tasty blood?  And just how does a vampire become a vampire anyway?  Do you just have to get bitten by a vampire, or do you have to drink vampire blood, or does a vampire have to use his red-eyed hypno-vision to turn you into his minion? 

And there are probably other questions I could ask if I were into Buffy or True Blood or some other vampire-related television show or whatever.  But I'm not, so I guess I won't speculate any further on what a vampire does or doesn't do.

I just think it's interesting that vampires have fascinated so many people.  Writers have created all kinds of different varieties of vampires.  Readers and television watchers of multiple generations have indulged in vampire-related fiction.  Blood-sucking creatures, either scary or angsty, just seem to be a lot of fun.  I don't even know why they're a lot of fun, but I have to admit that I like vampires, too.  Not enough to write a book about them at this point, but never know.

All of this vampire talk makes me thirsty.

I'mma go drink some V-8.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fun with Planning

Summer has officially begun.  The calendar is finally agreeing with the weather--it's felt like summer for WEEKS.  It also feels more like summer because the family I nanny for has come back from vacation, and I've begun my full days with them.  During the school year, I just watch them two-three afternoons a week.  In the summer, I have them two-three days a week--all day long. 

It's hard to keep three girls occupied all day long.  I know this because I've spent two previous summers telling them to turn off the tv and getting three blank stares.  These blank stares seem to communicate "No tv?  Seriously?  What else is there to do in life?"

Last summer wasn't as bad as the first.  The first summer was blah because we didn't do much of anything.  Last summer, I remember we went on several "outings" to parks and bowling alleys and free kids' movies--and of course to the pool.  I'm hoping we get to do some of those things this summer, too.  But I don't want this summer to be made up of outings and television. 

So I'm going to do something that's really kind of hard for me.  I'm going to attempt to be a planner. 

I've noticed recently that I'm the sort of person that's either all or nothing, black or white.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I'm not good at balancing.  The reason I've done so well at this weight loss stuff is because I've been a Nazi about it.  I can't do the whole moderation thing...which scares me because I'm getting close to the weight I want to be and am eventually going to have to attempt to maintain my weight instead of try to lose it.  Something tells me that I'm going to have to learn moderation in that. 

It's the same way with pretty much everything in my life.  I have to be uber disciplined or not at all.  There's no middle ground.  And I've realized that if that's the way it is, I'm going to have to start being uber disciplined about the way I spend my summer days with the girls I watch.  I've already made up a (somewhat flexible) schedule for days when we don't have "outings" planned.  It involves lots of reading and educational workbook activities that are going to keep them from forgetting stuff they learned at school.  It involves VERY LITTLE tv.  I'm even going to make them write me stories every week and/or do book reports.  I'm also going to make them exercise.

They're going to hate me.

...but maybe I am learning balance, just a little...

Because I'm planning lots of fun (non-tv-related) stuff, too.  I'm hoping to do some fun crafts and snacks and maybe even some science experiments with the girls.  Today, we made root beer floats to celebrate the first full day of summer.  I'm hoping to do root beer floats AGAIN, only I want to experiment with different ways of making the floats.  For instance, today we made the floats with diet root beer and light ice cream--so the whole float was only about 90 calories.  BUT it had artificial sweeteners in the root beer, and I'm trying to cut those out of my diet as much as possible.  So I want to figure out a way to make a tasty and low cal root beer float without using artificial sweeteners.  I can get sassafras tea concentrate.  I can get seltzer.  I can get Stevia.  I don't know if the girls will like it, but part of what I want to do with this summer is expand their culinary horizons...and if you knew the 12 year old I watch, you'd know that I've got some challenges ahead of me. 

Root beer floats are just the beginning.  I want to make berry parfaits with them.  I want to make smoothies with them (they don't like fruit and veggies, so I'm always trying to sneak them in).  I want to make guacamole with them.  I want to make California Rolls with them.  I want to make fruit kabobs (maybe even with chocolate and marshmallows, if they're lucky) with them.  I want to make homemade ice cream and popsicles with them.  I want to have a pizza day where we make a healthy fruit pizza, a healthy veggie pizza, and a totally UNhealthy cookie pizza (it's okay sometimes--Cookie Monster told me that a cookie is a sometimes food).

I also want to make picture frame word collages and decorate tote bags and get them to do creative things like design their own fashion magazine covers.  I want to do indoor scavenger hunts and make peanut butter playdough.  I'm pretty sure that if I searched online, I'd find a lot of other things that all three girls would love to do. 

And all of the sudden, I'm not looking at this summer thinking, "Oh, snot.  What am I going to do with these girls ALL summer???"  I'm looking at this summer thinking, "Oh, sweet!  I've got all summer to do a lot of fun things with these fantastic girls!"

So I'm not normally a planner, but I'm thinking that a little planning is going to go a long way this summer.  I know I'm going to have to be a little flexible in my plans, and that's going to be hard (moderation isn't my forte, remember?).  I also think it's going to be okay.  Because there's going to be unpredictable stuff like random trips to the library because the six year old forgot she needed to return her books (and if we go to return books, we're going to be there at least a good half hour while the girls look for more books--which is always cool with me).  There's going to be times when outings and activities just happen outside of the schedule I'm wanting to keep.  There's probably even going to be some projectile vomiting and/or extreme moping as far as the California Rolls are concerned (I can hear the 12 year old now--"You expect me to eat SEAWEED?!?!"--don't tell her they put seaweed in ice cream sometimes). 

But you know, I think this summer is going to be good for me in a lot of ways.  I need to learn balance, and I think this is really going to help me.  Because honestly, I've tried the uber discipline thing with my writing, and it's just not happening in the midst of all the other things I'm trying to balance.  I need to find a way for it to fit in with all the other stuff in my life. 

I have a feeling that this autumn is going to bring a lot of good change to my life.  Don't ask me why I feel that way, because I can't explain it.  I just know that when I have a feeling like this, it's best not to ignore it.  But I'm not in any hurry for autumn to come.  Right now I'm going to enjoy my summer and all the wonderful things I've planned to do with three of my favorite young ladies.

I just hope at least one of them likes my guacamole....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

SEW Sunday: Still Learning

(SEW Sunday is when I rant about discuss what's going on with the queries I'm supposed to be SENDING, the manuscripts I'm supposed to be EDITING, and the stuff I'm currently WRITING...but it's usually just where I talk about what I should be doing and am not doing)

I was talking with a good friend last night about how I kind of dread SEW Sunday blogs.  Why?  Because most weeks I don't do anything worth speaking of, so by the time Sunday rolls around, I have nothing to actually report.  This week is no exception.

My completed and polished manuscript is in the hands of one of my fellow writer friends.  I'm still working on some songs and working up the courage to go record them.  I did read over a rough manuscript I wrote over a year ago--it doesn't need much editing--but it's a companion to another book that needs a LOT of editing before I can even think about trying to sell it.  So yeah.  In other words, I haven't been doing much.

And one of the things my friend and I talked about last night was that feeling that we should be doing more--more BIG things...more more more.  I understand what she was talking about, but I'm not sure it all relates the same way to my life.  Balance is incredibly hard for me.  I've always struggled with it. 

Right now, the big struggle in my life is figuring out how much of following God is grace/faith/trust and how much is action.  I am writing because it's something God's given me to do--I have a HUGE passion for it that pretty much consumes my sanity and everything else.  I can't not write.  And I want my writing to be something that honors God.  So when I'm not writing as much as I think I should be writing, it's easy to get myself into this guilt trap.  I start basing everything on how much work I'm doing for God.

That's not the right attitude to have.  I'm not doing anything for God.  God doesn't need me.  The world needs another novel like I need another crazy Dragon-Muse.  But God wants me to write, and there's value in that because HE'S doing something.  My frequent attitude is: "What am I doing for God?"  My attitude should be something more like: "What is God doing through me?" 

I keep going around in circles and keep coming back to the same conclusion that I'm just a weak fool whom God has chosen to shame the strong and the wise.  And His timing isn't my timing.  Could I be doing more?  Absolutely.  I should be doing more.  But I should be doing more because God's working in me, not because I'm vainly trying to work for God.

I put the cart before the horse and end up not getting anywhere.

So I'm still learning to balance.  It's a work in progress, and I'm a work in progress.  One thing I'm also learning is that the more work you put into something, the better it becomes.  So while I'm waiting and hopefully working (for the right reasons) on what God has given me to do, making it better...

...well, God's doing the same thing in me.  Oh, this process of wonderful, so mysterious.

But yeah.  I hope I actually have something worth reporting next week.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Fiction Friday This Week

Yes, I'm aware that today is Saturday.  I didn't write a Fiction Friday this week because I was really out of it yesterday from being outside in the sun too much during the morning hours, and I just spent the rest of the day laying around moaning.   I didn't get any sunburn or anything serious, but my body doesn't react well to too much sunshine.  I think it's some kind of defense mechanism because I'm pale as a vampire

So maybe next Friday I'll blog about vampires or something, but no Fiction Friday (or Fiction Saturday) this week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Trouble With Being Multi-Talented

I can't dance.

I also can't play basketball.  Or baseball.  Or football.  Or soccer.  Or tennis.  Or ping pong.  Ok...let's just rule out anything that involves coordination.

I have lousy organizational skills and math and I are mortal enemies. 

I have no idea how to properly operate an iron--unless it involves melting fuse beads.

The only people I can impress with my drawing skills are under the age of six.

My cooking is hit or miss--usually miss.

I am a notorious plant killer.

I can't do a thing with hair...which is why mine usually just hangs there...threatening to eat small children.

With all the things I am BAD at, I have to admit, due to very little (or no) effort on my part, I'm also really good at a lot of things.  I also have a lot of interests.  I consider myself a decent writer, since, you know, I'm trying to sell a book and stuff.  I can sing--even if the only two vocal styles I have mastered are "the opera diva" and the "bad hippy."  My guitar skills leave MUCH to be desired, but I can fool a lot of non-musically-inclined people into thinking I'm a decent guitar player.  I write pretty good songs, too--at least they're good for someone who stinks at guitar. 

I'm good with kids, too.  For some reason, they seem to like me.  I think it's because they can tell I like them.

I'm a good listener, and I'm compassionate.  I'm an encourager  I know this because it's something people have consistently told me over the years.  Not braggin', just sayin'.  That's just the way God's made me.  I can't take credit for any of it.

In the past six months, I've discovered I like to run, too.  I'm not good at it, per se, and I have had to put effort into it, but I enjoy it.  And I'm starting to think there's a reason that all of the sudden I've gone from a pansy who vowed she'd stick with speed walking, to a pansy who is entertaining the idea of training for a half-marathon.  It's weird how things work out.  God's got a sense of humor, and that's all I'm going to say about that...for now.

I'm also an EXPERT in the fine art of sleeping.  I love me some sleep.  I don't get as much of that as I'd like, but yeah--sleep is definitely on my list of talents/interests.

See, I think life would be a lot easier sometimes if I was only good at one thing.  What's that old saying?  "Do one thing.  Do it well."  I've never been able to pick just one thing to do.  That's my problem.  I remember sitting with my advisor at my first college--the advisor they assigned to all the students who were too wishy-washy to pick a major.  He told me, "Ruth, your problem is that you're good at too many things.  You like to do too many things.  If you only had one interest or if you were only good at one thing, then we could narrow down your choices for a major." 

Long story short, I dropped out of school (partly because I couldn't pick a major and at that point they were forcing me to pick a major) and eventually transferred to another school where I graduated with THREE areas of study.  I majored in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in English and Christian Studies.  Then, for good measure, I tacked on a Psychology minor.

And now, I have a wishy-washy degree that is next to useless for getting me a real job.  But that's okay.  I got an education (which is really what I wanted), and I get by.

The thing is, that advisor was right.  I have too many interests.  I have too many things that I'm good at doing.  And while I'm not needing to pick a major or career path at this stage of my life, I'm wondering if it's good for my writing that I have so many other things that I want to do.

I guess there's a couple of different ways I could look at it.  On the one hand, all these other activities I'm involved with are taking up a lot of the time I could use to write.  If I didn't make time to go out and run, or if I didn't do choir at church, or if I didn't take time to write songs or play the guitar, or if I didn't go voluntarily spend my time with kids that I love, or if I didn't make time for my friends, or if I didn't sleep, or if I didn't do all these other things I do, I would have a little more time to write.  And I could always use more time to write.

On the other hand, maybe all these other things I do might actually make me a better writer.  When I spend time doing a lot of different things, not only do I more greatly value the little time I do set aside for writing, but I also have more life experiences to draw from.  I think that the more I live, the more I experience, the more I have to write about.  Running gives me time to think and clear my head.  Talking to people gives me different perspectives.  Music gives my soul extra inspiration.  Spending time with kids help me see the world through a much younger set of eyes.  Even sleeping gives me the opportunity to dream.  All these things make me a better writer. 

So, I'm not about to drop any of these things the Lord has given me to live and love.  I have reason to believe that everything He's given me to do right now, everything He's given me a talent and/or passion for is something that is worthwhile.  It's annoying sometimes, because it's hard to have time to complete tasks when there's SO much I want to do.  But I just don't think God ever intended me to be the sort of person who does just one thing well. 

Sometimes I try to do too much at once.  I know I still need to work on balance.  But all in all, I'm really enjoying life.  Writing is a major part of that life.  It's probably one of the most major parts of my life.  It's just not the only thing.  So it's not the only thing I'm going to do.

I still pray I do it--and everything else my hands/feet find to do--well. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

SEW Sunday: Life

(SEW Sundays are posts where I rant about discuss what's going on with the queries I am SENDING to agents, my EDITING, and my WRITING...among other things....)

My fingers hurt.  It's not because I've been typing too much.  It's because I just spent about an hour and a half playing guitar.  I like Sunday afternoons because I usually set aside a good chunk of time just for this purpose.  I could be napping, but when I nap on Sunday afternoons, I tend to go into a mini coma and not wake up until the "wee hours" of Monday morning.  So to avoid throwing off my sleep schedule for the entire week, I play the guitar when most people take naps. 
I wrote music for two songs over the past month.  I'm working on the music for two more.  Originally, I was just planning on working on one musical project.  If things keep going the way they've been going, then I might have two musical projects in mind.  We'll see what happens.  I'm very excited about it--though also very scared.  That's ironic, because one of the projects I'm thinking of has to do with the theme of fear.  But I did talk briefly with a very nice man who might be able to record my project(s), and that was extremely encouraging .  There are a lot of little (and big) details to work out, but I'm confident this is going to happen. 
As far as the writing goes, I'm still waiting on a few things.  I traded manuscripts with a fellow writer friend today.  That's always a little scary, but in the long run I really think she's going to be able to help me progress in this "getting published" journey.  I've been stuck for so long that I really think I've needed a push.  So hopefully this is it.
I know I keep saying a lot of the same things over and over in these posts.  It's because I need reminders.  I need the reminders that while waiting is hard, it's part of the journey on which God is leading me.  While I'm waiting, there are a lot of things to be doing, a lot of life to be living.  What I do now as an unpublished writer is just as important as the things I will do when I become a published writer (and I'm confident that I will become one, one way or another).  I get in this mindset so many times that life isn't happening until I achieve some kind of goal or dream.  The truth is, life is right now.  Life is every day.  Life is getting out of bed in the morning and going for a run, or going to work, or just sitting down with a cup of coffee and enjoying the beauty of the world around me. 
Thank you if you're one of the ones who consistently reads this and consistently prays for me and this path God's given me to walk.  I know it's frustrating to have to wait for anything, and a lot of people have expressed that they really want to be able to read my books in print (most of them want free signed copies--I don't know about the free part, but I'll sign it for free, if that helps!).  I know I've said this on this blog before, but I'm going to say it again.  No matter how frustrated you are in waiting, I'm even more so.  And I've been apathetic for a while because I get so discouraged.  But I sense that apathy melting away.  I'm starting to figuratively breathe more deeply, wanting to take in as much life as possible.  And part of that means I'm going to start working towards my dreams again.  If they're God-given dreams, then they're not really in my hands, so I can't be afraid.  Not really. 
It's really amazing what God's doing in me right now.  It's been such a process.  I can't explain it very well--just that I'm changing.  He's being faithful to strip away a lot of things that have kept me from being as free as He's wanted me to be.  Fear is one of those things.  I'm learning.  It's still a process.  I call it the process of perfection--it will only be completed when I do move past the poor reflection in the mirror and see Him face to face.  In the meantime, there's this life He's graciously given me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fiction Friday: Fairy Tales

I'm sitting here trying to think of my favorite fairy tale, which is a lot harder than I thought.  My brain said, "What's your favorite fairy tale, Ruth?"  And I said, "Oh, brain, that's easy!  It's...uh...hmm.  Wow.  I can't choose one.  There are a lot of fairy tales I like.  How come you've never asked me this before?"  "I don't know, it's just never really come up before now," my brain replied.  "Well, I expect better of you next time," I said crossly.  "This should have been something we settled a long time ago."  "It's not my fault," my brain protested.  "It's because you keep thinking about food when I'm trying to think about important literary stuff."  "Oh shut up and let's go get some hummus."  My brain shouted with glee.  "YAY HUMMUS."

What was I talking about?

Oh.  Fairy tales.  Apparently, I don't have a favorite one, though my brain and I eventually did come to the conclusion that most of my favorite fairy tales were either compiled or written by Hans Christian Anderson.  I like some Irish fairy tales.  Aesop is great.  I'm a fan of the Brothers Grimm.  But Hans Christian Anderson was the stuff.  Okay, so according to most biographical info I've read on the man, he was bonkers, but apparently crazy people make good writers.

I think I can narrow my favorites down to three.  "The Steadfast Tin Soldier."  "The Tinderbox."  "The Wild Swans."  The first two were originally by Anderson, and Anderson wrote a version of "The Wild Swans."  I've read about five different versions of The Wild Swans, and I definitely like Anderson's best.  Others I LOVE by him are "The Little Mermaid," (NOT THE DISNEY VERSION), "The Little Match Girl," "The Snow Queen," and of course "The Ugly Duckling." 

Maybe it's odd for a woman in her early thirties to still like fairy tales so much, but I never claimed to be normal.  I love fairy tales and always will.  In fact, I've written quite a few and hope to get them published someday (James, are you reading this [probably not]?  We need to talk).  I like how they put simple values and morals into short, sometimes sweet, sometimes scary, often strange little stories.  I like how easy it is to see a fairy tale character's virtues (or lack thereof).  There's seldom any ambiguity about whether a character is a hero or a villain.  Even if bad things happen to a noble protagonist, things almost always turn out for the best for them.  Likewise, if the protagonist is foolish or cruel, he or she meets some disastrous end or learns some life-altering lesson before the story is finished.  Yet fairy tales are so unpredictable because they usually include elements of magic that don't occur in reality.  That's why they're so much fun.

Fairy tales aren't realistic.  I think that's part of the reason why a lot of people believe that fairy tales are just for children.  But in my opinion, a great story is one that leaves a person better for having read it.  It leaves a person with a better outlook on life than they had before reading it.  I'm fully aware that in reality, bad things don't always happen to bad people.  Good things don't always happen to good people.  (I'm not even sure if any of us have the right to call ourselves good anyway--because we're all sinners in need of God's grace.)  Magical things just don't happen in real life.

But there's something to be gained from allowing oneself to read a fairy tale.  Just because a story is short enough to read in fifteen minutes (or less) and contains fanciful elements, that doesn't mean it can't be considered serious and important literature.  In reading a fairy tale where the good men are good men, the fair ladies are fair ladies, the evil giants are meant to be conquered, I think something is gained.  I think reading unrealistic fairy tales help give a person realistic hope.  Even if life is hard and monotonous from time to time, there is still magic in the world--even if it's found in a timeless story.

But I gotta run.  My brain is still thinking about that hummus.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Ever since my preschool teacher gig ended the last week of May, I've had a lot of extra time off.  Even with two (actually, due to some boring stuff I don't want to go into, it's now officially THREE) other jobs apart from the preschool thing, I can't seem to get enough hours to fully occupy my time.  And I know that when schools get out around here, I'm going to have to devote full days instead of full afternoons to my nanny job--but in the meantime, I have a lot more time to do absolutely nothing.

Now, if this time had been handed to me back in January or February, I know exactly what I would do with it.  I'd work on writing stuff until my fingers fell off.  Since I kind of like my fingers attached to my hands, I guess it's a good thing that I didn't have a lot of free time then.

The thing is, there's something about the summer that makes me feel...well, I can't think of a word for it.  Lazy was the first word that came to my mind, but that's not what I'm looking for.  I mean, I can be lazy (yesterday was an example of how I can unforgivably waste a lot of time playing computer games when I'm supposed to be working on writing--and I hope never to repeat it--but something tells me I will).  But I think a better term to describe how summer makes me feel is...relaxed.

I blame it on the fact that I spent my entire childhood going to school for every season besides summer.  When summer came, no more work.  I got to sleep in late and watch tv and read books and play outside and go swimming and go on vacation and just do nothing until August.  And my parents are teachers, so they had summer off, too.  I had no concept of people actually having to WORK in the summer.  And I guess even now part of that mentality is still present.

Sometimes I get really worked up and think I have to do a lot of stuff--and work is important.  The things I do with the time I've been given are vitally important.  But sometimes I start thinking that if I'm not doing this one certain thing (like writing, going to work, etc.), then I'm wasting my time.  And summer is a nice reminder that it's okay to relax.  It's a reminder I need annually.

Last summer I decided that I was going to try to experience every season instead of just getting through them.  With summer, that meant I was going to spend more time doing relaxing things that were still important.  I went on daycations to see friends that live a few hours away.  I sat out on my front porch with a glass of iced tea--just to listen to the sounds of the crickets.  I put on my spf 100 and went to the pool.  I made low calorie root beer floats.  In the fall, I made a point of actually going to the state fair (since it's so close and I'd NEVER been before--what was I thinking?).  I carved a pumpkin.  I made a full Thanksgiving dinner (complete with a 13 lb. turkey) just for myself (even though one other person did show up at the last minute).  Winter was harder because I'm one of those notorious WINTER HATERS, but even then I tried.  I mean, Christmas is easy.  It's my favorite season, my favorite day, my favorite favorite favorite.  But after Christmas, then comes that two and a half month period where I hate everything...except for hot chocolate (which I couldn't have because I'm dieting, but oh well).  But I did a lot of knitting (because that's a winter activity, yo).  I got a new coat which helped things a lot--it's always better to brave the cold when looking adorable and fashionable...and because of all the knitting, I also had a lot of cute scarves to wear.  Mainly, I kept telling myself that spring would be all the sweeter after I finally got through winter.  Then spring came and my heart rejoiced!  Life!  Flowers!  Butterflies!  Warmer (but not too warm) weather!  Allergies...well, okay, so spring isn't perfect either, but that's what Claritin is for.

So it's summer again (or so the temperatures outside tell me, even if the calendar still says it's spring).  And I'm learning (once again) that it's okay to relax.  I've had a lot of time off.  Some of it I've wasted.  Some of it I've spent LIVING.  Even if I'm not working or writing, I can still do something important--like go have lunch with a friend I haven't seen in a while or having a picnic just because I can.

I really think that one of the reasons God invented summer is to remind us to slow down and take time to relax.  I get in such a hurry sometimes to do do do, get done get done get done, be somewhere be somewhere be somewhere that I forget it's important to take time to breathe.  God did give us work, but He also gave us rest.  And sometimes rest means doing something different from the treadmill/hamster wheel routine.  Sometimes it just means taking the time to appreciate life.

So whatever else happens this summer, I plan on really living.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

SEW Sunday: Help

(SEW Sundays are where I rant about discuss what's going on with the queries I am SENDING to agents, my EDITING, and my WRITING.)

So my Boot Camp week went very well in some ways.  I stuck closer to my diet than I originally intended...and if I exercise tonight the way I plan, I'll have burned 2500 calories in exercise-related activities this week.  Sure, some crazy people burn that much in one workout, but 1) I don't have that much time, and 2) I'm a pansy.  I've not lost all the weight that I gained back, but I'm not particularly worried about it.  I'll get there.

And why am I talking about weight loss and exercise and calories when I'm supposed to be talking about queries and editing and writing?  Because I'm avoiding the truth that I've done like nothing in that area this week.  Nada. 

And I'm not particularly ashamed of myself.  This week, as most weeks do, turned out busier than I anticipated.  Sure, I wasted some of the free time I did have.  I'm still trying to kick a little of my apathy.  Or maybe it's not apathy so much as it's fear. 

One really good thing in my writing world did happen this week.  On Friday, I went out to lunch with a fellow novelist who is trying to sell her books.  (You can read her funny funny blog here...and be sure to subscribe to it, because you'll want to keep reading!).  She's a lot further than I am in the process, so it was helpful to get to chat with her and glean a little from her experiences.  I have a feeling I'm going to be asking her a lot of questions as I continue my own journey into the insanity of trying to get published.  She wants to read my first book, so I need to do another run-through/edit and make sure it's ready by Sunday.  That gives me a deadline.  Someone like me NEEDS deadlines sometimes.  ...okay...MOST of the time.  And hopefully she can help me with my synopsis, because I'm pretty much like a lost puppy when it comes to that thing. 

What I'm about to say might sound like another excuse and/or cop-out, and maybe it is another excuse and/or cop-out.  I am starting to realize that while, YES, I should be working towards my goals a lot harder than I am, maybe taking my time in this matter is not a bad thing.  I mean, my life's dream is to be a published writer (preferably a best-selling one...with a Newbery medal...but right now I'd settle for a foot in the door).  I can't afford to rush into things too much.  Yes, there's something to be said for taking chances and risks.  Sometimes that works out for some people, but I don't think it's the norm.  And honestly, it's not my style.

I think my book is good.  I also think the other two books I've completed are good (though I need to get my act together and start seriously editing them).  The writing and editing process was hard, and I didn't always know what I was doing, but eventually I learned.  And I'm still learning.  But now I have to learn how to make someone else interested enough in my books to want to try to help me sell them.  And that's the hardest step yet.  Even after all the research I've done, I don't really know what I"m doing.  I need help.  And right now, I feel as though the Lord is leading me to seek that help. 

Unfortunately, this means more waiting.  The thing is, while I'm waiting, I can't afford to keep being idle.  There is editing to be done on projects that aren't ready to be sold.  Even if I HATE my synopsis and need help with it, I can still work on it.  I can research agents. 

Turns out, writing is just like everything else in life.  I've got to learn to balance faith and deeds.  I know I'm not the one in control.  I'm not the one directing my own steps.  And I don't always know exactly what step is coming next.  I like to know what step to take next.  If I had my way, the entire course of this would be plotted out for me so that I could see what I need to do and right when I need to do it.  God knows this. 

God doesn't give me what I want.  He does, however, give me everything that I need.  So I can't see what's going to happen or when it's going to happen.  Sometimes He waits till the last minute to show me what to do, and sometimes He doesn't show me what action I'm supposed to take at all--and I just have to walk in faith and trust that He's not going to lead me astray.  And right now, as always, I know the basic things I should be doing.  In life, it's reading His word, following His commands, seeking His face, showing love to others.  Even when we don't know what we're supposed to do in the grand scheme of life, we know the little things we should be doing from day to day.  In writing, I know I should be working on different things, even if I don't know all the little details of what I need to do next. 

So I guess that my prayer for this week is that I'll JUST DO SOMETHING and trust the Lord while I'm doing it.  And if life gets in the way (as it often does), I won't allow myself to feel bad about those things.  Because while I'm working waiting for this writing stuff to happen, there's a lot of life to live. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fiction Friday: The Book/Film That Has Everything

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to take a remarkable class called "Literature and Film."  In this class, I was given the best possible assignment someone like me could ever hope to be assigned.  I had to write a paper about a book and that book's film adaptation.  We were given a list of books/films to choose from.  One of my favorite books (and my favorite film of all time) was on that list.

I am the sort of person who likes a lot of different things.  If you were to ask me what my favorite genre of literature is, I would probably say Young Adult, and I might say Fantasy/Sci Fi, but I'd have to throw in some Adventure, definitely a splash of Romance or some Paranormal or some Mystery/Suspense.  And the funnier the better.  I like...well...everything (even Horror if it's done right).  The same thing goes for film.  I like everything (except for MOST Chick Flicks and Horror...and Westerns). 

So when a writer combines all the genres into one big awesome novel/film, that's when said writer makes Ruth happy.  It's like that writer got right into my brain and said, "AS YOU WISH!"

What I like is a novel/film with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles!  All of these things and more can be found in the novel/film The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern William Goldman.  This brilliant writer wrote both the novel and the film's screenplay (as well as several other screenplays, including the one for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."  (Is that a Western?  Maybe I should actually WATCH that one...  Because right now the only "Westerns" I like are the funny ones, like "The Shakiest Gun in the West" and "The Apple Dumpling Gang"...and does "Three Amigos!" count?  What about "Old Yeller"???)).

Most people I consider to be cool have seen the movie "The Princess Bride."  Yes, it was made when my age was still in the single digits...back when Andre the Giant (who could also be called Andre the Awesome) was still alive.  I can quote the movie frontwards and backwards.  Okay, maybe not...but I could probably get pretty close.  The special effects are dreadful.  The music is lousy.  It matters not.  It's still my favorite movie...and I like movies.  The acting is extraordinary (especially the comedic scenes...Mandy Patinkin FTW!).  The writing is outstanding.  This is one of the funniest movies ever...and it's got a great plot full of all that stuff I listed above.  If you haven't seen "The Princess Bride" (INCONCEIVABLE!) either because you've been living under a rock for the past 25 years and have never heard of it or because you've written off a movie with such a title as a "Chick Flick," then stop reading my blog (if I say that, then you KNOW this is serious) and GO BUY THAT MOVIE.  I didn't say rent.  I said buy.  Trust me.  You'll want to keep it and cherish it forever...and ever...  And I mean it (anybody want a peanut?).

As for the book, well, it's not my favorite book, though it's definitely one of my favorites.  That being said, it's even better than the movie.  It's funnier.  It's got more action.  It's got more "twue wuv."  It's got more fencing, fighting, torture, revenge...etc.  It's got more everything.  And William Goldman successfully managed to hoodwink a more naive Ruth.  I truly believed for a long time that there actually was such a person as S. Morgenstern who wrote The Princess Bride way back in the day.  William Goldman actually wrote it in the 1970s pretending to offer an edited version of Morgenstern's original.  Clever of Goldman.  Clever and tricksy hobbitses.  So if you've seen the movie (and of course, loved it...because everyone loves this movie, and if you don't then there's something wrong with you, you miserable vomitous mass, you warthog faced buffoon; you queen of refuse, you queen of garbage, you queen of PUTRESCENCE!  BOO!  BOO! BOOOOOOO!) and haven't read the book, then GET THEE TO A LIBRARY/BOOKSTORE IMMEDIATELY.  Or the Dread Pirate Robers will come for your SOULLLLLLL!

As for that paper I had to write for that class...well, I've never had so much fun writing a paper.  I've never had such a good time doing research.  ...and I got an A (not to mention the best grade in the class). 

By the way, never get involved in a land war in Asia or go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line...just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I've been reading Hebrews for the past couple of days.  I came across "The Faith Chapter" (Hebrews 11) today.  I've read this passage several times before, but I noticed something today that I'd never really paid attention to until now.  It was convicting.

I've been so apathetic for the past few weeks.  Maybe it's because I've been SO busy that I've just needed rest, but when I've had free time (and I've had a lot more than usual lately), I've not used it wisely.  I've done completely unproductive activities...if you can even call them "activities."  Part of me is just waiting for a time when I'll get bored of it and snap out of it, and part of me is scared I won't get bored of it and won't snap out of it. 

In the past, I've been motivated because of my dreams and plans for my future.  Right now, that's not even working.  I would like to be a published author, but at the moment I'm doing nothing to get to that point.  And I don't even seem to care about it.  The end result doesn't seem worth any effort to me right now.  And that's not okay.  Laziness is not okay.  I'm wondering if I'm acting this way because I don't want to put forth the effort for something I think is going to fail.

How many times to I need to remind myself that God has given me these stories to write?  How many times do I need to remind myself that I don't have to do a thing besides be faithful with what He's given me?  But the thing is, I'm not faithful.  Not like those people in Hebrews 11.

Do you know what I noticed about all of those Biblical characters listed in Hebrews 11?  They all DID something.  They all ACTED on their faith.  Some of them had some pretty big things to do.  Some of these things didn't make a whole lot of sense by human understanding.  I'd list them, but they're already listed in Scripture.  The people in Hebrews 11 didn't just believe, they put action to their faith...and God did remarkable things through them.  They understood that "faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen."  When you have faith, you are expectant. 

I've not been very expectant lately.

So the question I ask myself now is, "Do I believe God enough to act out my faith--even and perhaps especially when the things I've been given to do don't make a lot of sense?"

I still get the skepticism (even though I get way more encouragement--thank you to all my wonderful friends and family) about my desire to write/sell books.  It's not a practical thing to do.  Unless I luck out like Stephenie Meyer, I'm not going to be able to make a decent living even if I DO manage to sell my books.  And maybe all these little voices, all the skeptics, are convincing me that I shouldn't even try.  Or that it's not worth the effort. 

When am I going to learn that all things are possible with God?  When am I going to believe that He is good, able, and loving--that He's got plans for me that are so beyond what I can ask or imagine?  If I believe Him, I'm going to act on those beliefs.  I'm going to try without fearing failure--because He's in control whether I fail or succeed. 

Everything that comes my way is filtered by grace. 

If only I had the faith to believe that day after day...

Maybe I'm getting there.  I know I'm closer than I've been before.  Why?  Because God is faithful whether I am or not.