I Wish I Could Be…

Imagine this. My six-year-old wearing his fuzzy pj’s makes this imperious proclamation: “I wish I could be public schooled so I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the kitchen to get my rods.”

Those rods, to which he referred, were little color-coded blocks that enabled him to learn his fractions and multiplication tables like a boss. Just, they were manipulatives. Manipulatives must be manipulated. One must touch them. One must get them out and place them on the coffee table next to the couch before one sits down to do his math. Else, one must expect to get back up.

A truer grass-is-greener thought was never uttered than when my son, who had zero-minus-infinity idea of what public school entailed– wished for it anyway because it was the antithesis of his present, horrible circumstances. That of having to walk the twenty steps from our cosy spot on the couch to the kitchen drawer, where his math rods were stored.

Nevermind we live barely less than two miles from the elementary school where code dictates he’d be walking to and fro every day, unless his mum rescued him with a car ride. Nevermind traipsing through the halls to get to classes, lunch, the bathroom. Each and every time, far more than the twenty steps to the kitchen to get his rods. And the pj’s: out of the question. Public schoolers have to wear clothes.

We all do it though, don’t we? Decide the grass is simply not green enough. Sometimes when life gives me a backhand I look longingly at the freeway and think how nice it would be to get in the car and just… go. Anywhere. King David had no freeway, but he and I comiserate: Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. (Psalm 55:6) He was a king and wanted to be a dove. My son was homeschooled and wanted to be public schooled. I am a homeschool mom and wanted to be a gypsy.

Better yet, I wish I could be a superhero, then this thing called adulting wouldn’t be so dang hard…

 

For my Husband on Father’s Day

Father moment: Bob walks in the door after a ten-hour workday, lunch bag in one hand, mail (bills) in the other, trying to shake the day’s garbage from his head and wanting very badly “to get horizontal for a minute.” Out of necessity Bob has perfected the power nap. Still, his head doesn’t get to touch the pillow. When he walks in it’s like a magnet just stepped inside and everyone turns to iron. Phoom! There’s the sucking sound of displaced air as we all beeline for the man with the answers, the wallet, the brawn, the sugar.

“Dad, will you swim with me?”

And another. “Dad, will you fix my windshield?”

Or this. “Dad, can I have X dollars to do Y activity?”

And I tell him, “The fridge is leaking. And I ask him, “What are you doing tonight?” It doesn’t really mean what are you doing tonight? It means, “Let’s walk the dog because I miss you.” I tell him about the fridge and ask him for a walk as if those two pieces of information exist in entirely different cosmos, as if the fridge needing attention and me wanting attention can be simultaneously acknowledged. This, we expect from fathers: superhuman strength and the ability to transcend time and space.

And his hamstrings are tighter than a compound bow from the running, but walk he does. Fix the windshield he does, swim, shells out X dollars for Y activity. This father works all day, sets himself aside all night and drops into bed. I am a witness.

Thank you for loving us so well, for so often putting your dreams aside for your family and in so doing– offering an example and a challenge to those of us blessed to be called yours.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. – Romans 12:10

Locker Room Talk

I love writing about overcoming. It feels like I’m having a locker room talk with myself. Not the kind Donald Trump has– the kind like this:

My family makes fun of me because I listen to things like this all the time: in the shower, while doing my hair and make-up, pretty much any time I’m not actively focused on something else. When I hold planks I play these sorts of YouTube videos. They distract me. Ever since I was young (12ish), I wanted to work harder than everyone else. Talent is a lottery. So are looks. Even brains. But anybody can work, went my thinking. I was sorely just an anybody, so I focused on the one thing I could control: work ethic.

“She works harder than any of the guys,” my coach mentioned to his friend. He thought I couldn’t hear, as I was attempting giants (see video below) on the bar next to him. The best compliments, the truest, are the ones they don’t mean for you to hear. That’s how I feel about affirmations. If you’re telling me because you want to pet me, I don’t believe you. If you’re whispering to your friend I work harder than any of the guys, I dare to believe.

And to think? Harder than the guys. The tomboy in me smiled at that thought.

Today is one of those days I don’t feel right. I’m so wrong I can’t concentrate. I want to do what I’ve committed to (write my novel), but with no extrinsic motivation like a time clock or a boss or a bar coach, I’m left to motivate myself. And today– I’m not feeling it. So I write about not feeling it because at least I’m writing. Only writers can see how much sense that makes.

I said in my resolution post that life will throw you down, that it’s our job to get up. How you do that will look different than how I do that. This is how I do that. I can’t hear my characters whisper their feelings because my own are yelling. Anne Lamott was once told, “You think everything that happens to you is interesting.” I fear that is the lot of a writer… but what writer sits down at her laptop and thinks Today I’ll write about something superbly boring… ? No one thinks that. We all think we have something interesting to say. Or at least, we dare to hope.

An invisible bar coach sits beside me and reminds me that I can still work hard at my craft. I do wonder though: what does Stephen King do on his off days? He says he writes every single day of the year. Christmas. Birthdays. Down days. Knowing what a liberal he is, I wonder if he picked himself up by his bootstraps and wrote great prose the day Donald Trump won the presidency? Or did he mope around the house? Or play motivational videos and distract himself until he felt right again? I’d love to know.

 

 

 

 

 

Frankenstein’s Teenager

Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein, is really an allegory. It’s the parenting memoir she couldn’t write. Parents of pubescents… follow me.

Victor builds what he hopes will be a beautiful, incredible masterpiece. He works tirelessly on his legacy. So intent on accomplishing his ends, Frankenstein doesn’t ask, “Should I?”

Sounds like many parents I know who should’ve stuck with cats. But really, is anybody ready?

Said creation doesn’t turn out the way Victor imagined. In fact, when his creation hits puberty and lumbers around to the sounds of creepy Psycho chords, Victor realizes to his horror: I meant it to be beautiful, but I made… a monster. Too late. What’s done is done. All he can do is damage control. And the monster– it might want love and affection, but it’s hard to say for sure, so irrational and unaware it is. But it wants a girlfriend, of that, it’s certain.

So Victor, for the whole rest of the story is basically wrecked over this creature for which he’d had such high hopes. All he can do is follow it around trying to make sure it doesn’t hurt people. He fails. Parents do. But we keep going to the ends of the earth, like Victor Frankenstein. His monster runs away– of course it does, thinking the grass is greener somewhere else, everywhere else in fact. People get hurt. Ugly words are exchanged. The monster roams and the maker frets.

Frankenstein ends in death. Victor, his wife, his creation. All perish. As for the memoir: the reality of adolescence is that a death occurs there too. Adolescence itself dies and out of the seed springs something entirely new– a rational and beautiful adult. And the grey-souled parents, dead but only half-dead like a bony tree, breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Don’t Forget the Little Car Accidents

I like telling you about my car accidents. The slaps of fate, I consider my teachers. So when life smacks me down and I taste the dirt, my natural response is to share what it tasted like. This isn’t new. My very first attempt at voluntary writing (age nine) was an apology to the Almighty in response to a botched attempt at digging up a dead cat. How does one botch the exhumation of a dead animal, you wonder? Could the unearthing of rotting pet go well in any reality? It could’ve gone better, I submit.

One of the farm dogs got wind (haha) of what we kids were doing and decided he was going to get himself a little dead cat dinner. Black hefty bag and all. Digging in, girlie, don’t mind if I do…

To say I felt “bad” about my friend’s cat strewn about the farm like confetti, my little experiment gone wrong, was quite the understatement. You’re going straight to hell for this one, Kelly, straight to hell. And so’s the dog.

I penned my confession to God about how profoundly sorry I was, how things didn’t turn out the way I intended, and could God forgive?– I just had a strange curiosity as to what a dead thing looked like. I’d never been to a funeral, never died myself. It was an honest mistake made in the name of science. Kind of like Victor Frankenstein.

Meanwhile, back on track. I had another wee car issue recently. Remember the gal I rear-ended? This time I scraped a car as I pulled into a spot at the YMCA. As soon as I heard it, I went into denial mode. That did not just happen. That was nothing. I actually pulled out my how-to-write book and acted like I was going to sit there and read it because what did I have to hide? I didn’t really scrape the car next to me. It was the tiniest feathery touch. Nothing to worry about.

But my stomach did that dance it does, like when I get pulled over by a (love you so much thank you for your service) man in blue. It’s the Dance de Guilt. So I did what any selfish, overworked, underfunded, stressed out, petulant irresponsible 44 year old would do: I backed my car out and parked in another space.

As I did so, my headlights fell upon the “little scratch.” Eeeeeeck. All pretense of its being feathery left my horizon. It was a bright line the same color as my car, running the entire length. My Dance de Guilt made its way into my heart and began a stomp dance while I deliberated with God about why I should just go. Go! No one saw. It was still just a scratch, went my reasoning. I had no time to do the right thing, went my reasoning. And I was so very tired. And poor. And did I mention I was poor?

We’re not poor, not really, but I didn’t feel rich enough to write my name and number on a piece of paper and put myself at the mercy of whoever’s car I’d redesigned. I hoped the person would come out and not even see it and leave while I had it out with God, that my opportunity to do the right thing would pass, and I’d be de facto absolved.

I kept chanting no one saw, no one saw. God saw.

I tell you I did the right thing for Him. Not for any other reason than for the fact that I love God and God calls me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. (Like I could forget, it’s on the right margin of this very blog!) I wish I could tell you it’s my knee jerk reaction to do the right thing.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

I wrote the note and placed it on the windshield. It went something like:

I’m very sorry I scraped your car as I was pulling in the spot next to yours. I do have insurance, but if you don’t mind, I’d rather pay for the damage outright. Here is my phone number, and again I’m very sorry to have caused you trouble. – Kelly Griffiths

Waiting to hear from X Car Owner made me physically sick. I braced myself for the call from some car-obsessed victim junky hoping for a windfall, who’d start the conversation with a hit and run threat, spiced with expletives, who’d rip into me with what the hell’s wrong with you?

Just yesterday this was said from the pulpit of my church (I know you’re going to want to go there when you hear it): We’re going to make holiness sexy again. 

He actually spoke those words. No joke. Holiness. Sexy. Again.

People acting like God and it’s attractive.

I’m determined not to forget the little accident or the elderly, phlegmy-voiced man who called and said he’d buff the mark out, no worries, no cost, who said it was real nice of me to leave a note when I could have just left, and don’t worry, honey, I wouldn’t take advantage… I’m a Christian man.

A Christian man? How peculiar. You have my number because I’m a Christian woman.

matchbox

Holiness. Attractive. The following theoretical scenario is part of my salvation journey, part of what convinced me to follow Christ. It was the first time holiness was sexy to me. And it goes like this:

You’re walking alone down a dark alley in the middle of the night in a shady section of town. Ahead, you see a gang of men walking toward you. (I lived in San Diego at the time, in a section where you couldn’t get a pizza delivered because it wasn’t safe.) Walking alone… a gang of men walking toward me… yes. Quite terrorizing.

Wouldn’t you feel relieved to know those men had just left a Bible study?

Yes, of course. That changed everything. Holiness, the pursuit of it– had I known the men were leaving a Bible study, my hand would be off the trigger, my heart would trust. I could smile at them and they could smile at me.

And we’d all live holy ever after. Holiness. Sexy.

not-by-might-nor-by-power-but-by-my-spirit-says-the-lord

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

 

 

Don’t Forget – What It’s Like Writing my First Novel

keysI’ve been toying with the idea of changing my novel around. This morning I decided to change the point of view from 3rd to 1st– just to experiment. I’ve read many 1st person novels and loved them. Right now I’m reading We Were Liars by e. lockhart. If you want to hear a distinctive voice, read it. If you want to not put your book down for many uninterrupted hours ultimately putting your reality on hold, read it. My son was assigned We Were Liars for his summer reading; he read the whole book on the drive home from Pennsylvania. Then he had his girlfriend read it because it was too good to keep to himself. She also devoured it. I’m halfway through, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. Required reading that doesn’t feel required– way to go, St. Ignatius.

So this 1st person book and the others I’ve loved (The Fault in our Stars, The Screwtape Letters, Out of the Dust, The Book Thief, Telltale Heart) made me wonder if my story would be better served from 1st person. Even the book I hate the most, Catcher in the Rye, I hate because I hate the distinctive voice of the narrator. Many people love Holden Caulfield… or they love to love him. To admit loving Catcher in the Rye is to wear a sort of rebellious intellectualism like the green Masters jacket. It might be legit, but it might be off the racks of Goodwill. No one knows for sure.

Of course changing point of view would mean re-writing the whole thing which does make me want to weep. But I’d rather love my story, and in 3rd person, I’m not sure I’m lovin it.

So today I began the 1st person experiment. You know what? I love writing in 1st person. The few short stories I’ve written, the ones I like, are in 1st person. Since I might be reworking the whole thing, I’m not sure the 57,548 words I’ve written will ever reach the final draft, but in chronicling the journey, I note them.

I’m also itching to write a short story, so I have something about which to hope. Right now I only have three stories in the hoping queue. One is a local library contest, one the behemoth Writer’s Digest contest (my longest shot), and one to a web-based journal, East of the Web. I haven’t been able to join any of the local writing groups because my schedule has me driving or watching sports events. Not complaining, it’s a glorious season, but maybe when I can get back into those arenas I won’t feel so starved for validation. A writer sends out manuscript after manuscript, hoping for affirmation, but aware rejection is just as likely. It’s a boot camp of the soul.

Like buying lots of lottery tickets, I’ve got to get more hopes out there while I whittle away at my novel.

G is for Gabe

GGabe. At 11 he’s already a gentleman. I’ve lost him behind a held-open door thinking he’s coming. A Wendy’s double burger with cheese, mustard, pickles, and lettuce will make his day. He could easily stuff down a Wendy’s triple, if he could just dislocate his jaw like a python. Gabe will share his last Swedish fish or a kind word. Whichever you need.

Gabe is my last homeschool student. His stellar work ethic means I don’t have to badger him to do A+ work. Grading his math is like checking inventory. Yep, check, yep, check, yep… and he writes 700 word stories instead of doing his three pages of grammar when he’s feeling rebellious. His handwriting is absolute scratch, but he types faster than most data entry clerks, so it’s only a problem in math. I taught Gabe to play chess and beat him the first two games. Haven’t won one since.

Gabe read every Harry Potter book four times before I sternly told him to stop. When he finds an author he likes, he’ll read every single book published by that author. That was when he loved reading, before Minecraft and gaming stole his heart. I can still hook him with a great book, but I have to assign it as a school subject.

When Gabe was eight he broke his leg on a trampoline. Really a hulking kid broke Gabe’s leg on a trampoline by landing on it. That summer, from his couch prison, Gabe watched Michael Phelps stun the world. The Olympic games have inspired many a future great. Had Gabe not broken his leg, he wouldn’t have stayed still long enough to get inspired.

Because we homeschool, participation in some sport is mandatory. It’s their gym, their socializing, their personal jungle. All our kids are required to play something. Before the trampoline incident, Gabe was an unwilling soccer player. With the break and the long road of rehabilitation, soccer became truly odious. Faced with having to do something, Gabe decided to try his hand at swimming. He loved splashing around in our pool, but he’d never had formal stroke lessons.

Not even a week before Gabe’s first official swim class, I bribed him with an ice cream cone to jump in the pool without holding his nose. Tiger mom, you say. I’m also cheap. That ice cream cone saved me at least $50 in a swim level. It was an investment.

I’ve posted before on Gabe’s meteoric swimming career because I’m plumb amazed by it. He just completed his second year of short course swimming and made the cut for YMCA Great Lakes Zones, placing and scoring points in every event, crushing his seed times and reaping the rewards of his dedication and toil.

Could Gabe become a Michael Phelps? He already is to me.

Reason: Gabe’s work ethic motivates me to work harder at my own little piece of hard, which is usually a 4 mile jog or a sweaty piece of time on the recumbent bike. Gabe was blessed to get excellent coaching and have his limits pushed, yet he takes it a step farther and watches technique videos on Youtube and implements what he learns. During the season, when Gabe had his eye on the goal of making Zones, he ate fish, beans, rice, and cut back on sugar. I didn’t tell him to. Basically, Gabe did everything possible to put himself in a position to achieve his goals, knowing that whether or not he achieved them was ultimately up to God.

Every night Gabe reads his Bible. That’s inspiring too. The Bible says He who is faithful in little is faithful in much (Luke 16:10). Gabe is faithful in little and in much. Let me not forget that, nor how Gabe, at 11 years old, inspires me.