on writing, Personal Journey

2017 in the Rear View Mirror

2017. Crushed it. Really and truly. Those of you who know me know I beat myself up at regular intervals. I raise self-flagellation to an art form. My friends tell me I’m too hard on myself. If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do me no harm. I like to think I have an Anne Lamott aren’t-I-funny? aren’t-I-endearing? eggshell personality. Or that it comes as a side-effect of being rejected on a regular basis. All this to say, I’m not accustomed to patting myself on the back. But for 2017, I’m making an exception.

With 2017 I am thrilled, even with the number of rejections. Because rejections mean I’ve been trying. Rejections mean I’ve been hit and I’m still in the ring. In fact, I stayed in the ring and completed my first novel.

RESOLUTE was my word for 2017, and I’m proud to say it matched my year.

There is so much more to writing than just writing well. Does that seem obvious? Or confusing. I thought if I just wrote well, I’d be well read. If you build it, they will come. But noooooo. They don’t come. They don’t. You have to build it, repair it, arrange it, repair it, raze it, re-build it. Then, you may commence begging…begging for them to come. I BUILT IT, PEOPLE! You say. (then you hear the echo) You get the bullhorn out and street-preach at them.

If you build it, they will not come. You must go gather them. In 2017 I committed to spending time each day reading and commenting on fellow bloggers. The more I read, the more inspired I became. What started out as a commitment to encourage others, ended up encouraging and growing me. And along the way I’ve met some cool writer-friends.

I’m not a planner-blogger. I post whatever is in my mind. If the mind is full of cobwebs, I don’t want to give you cobwebs. I just wait. This explains my large chunks of blog silence. A commitment to a regular posting schedule is one of those things that sounds good on a list of resolutions, but is not realistic for me. My goals for 2018 are to get Trespass represented, publish more shorts and flashes, and have less cobwebs.

My 2017 writing accomplishments.

  1. Finished my novel, Trespass. It’s out to beta readers now, and I hope to send it to agents in 2018.
  2. Four works accepted for publication.
  3. Several flash/shorts out to literary journals, awaiting news.
  4. Wrote/edited almost every day.
  5. Took part in writing contests whenever I needed a break from my novel.

It was a physical year as well.

  1. Hiked a volcano in February.
  2. Ran my first ten miler in April.
  3. Ran my first half marathon in October.
  4. Got slow and fat over Christmas.

My whole family had a sort of Rocky Balboa year. Perhaps this stuff is contagious. I credit my husband with getting the ball rolling. Each of my children worked hard, challenged themselves, and took giant strides out of their comfort zones—whether it was a work promotion, a new sport, or an ambitious school schedule.

This is how my kids inspire me: I’ll be jogging, feeling like someone scooped out the flesh of my quads and put led in there…wanting very badly to walk. Or fall over. Then I think of one of my kids and how they don’t stop when it gets hard…and I don’t stop either. I can’t give less than I ask of them. Competition at its finest. And the more I overcome in one area, it spills over onto others. I expect 2018 will have its challenges and blows. If it please God, I plan to stay in the ring.

Happy New Year!

 

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Personal Journey

Your Attention, Please.

Villain, Victim, Victor: the three ways I can see myself in my quest for attention. As a victim I get consolation; as a villain, condemnation; and as a victor, congratulations. Which of those strokes I predominantly seek will dig ruts for the wheels of my life.

Admittedly, this idea came to me when I was scrolling through Facebook posts. All people crave attention, but social media makes it possible for cowards and complainers to garner attention in ways only possible on bathroom walls a generation ago. Before you flog me, I’m not calling all social media users cowards, just saying some cowards have a new tool.

There is nothing wrong with wanting attention, especially if you can take that long jump of faith and seek God’s attention over man’s. But most of us, in our humanness, want attention with skin on it. We want Likes.

trainSkin attention comes in various shades. The kind I pursue will  set a trajectory for the course of my life, draw certain personality types my way, and drive others far from me. I can change tracks, but it’s not easy. The thought and behavior patterns I adopt hold me in place, in a certain place. We trains chug along for years, unaware of the forces that play upon us. Once in a while an event can throw us off our tracks: marriage, divorce, babies (way off the tracks), landing a job, getting fired, a car crash, spiritual awakening, a trip to rehab, etc.. But generally crazy seeks out crazy; trains get comfy on their chosen tracks, and life flies by us while we gaze at the horizon or at the screens in our laps. We wake up one day, surprised at where our track has taken us.

So I’m asking myself: What kind of attention do I crave? I went back through my timeline and evaluated my posts just now. The majority of my posts are bragable moments; I default victor (although when my cat died, you bet I posted about it).

Most people will find a human mix of villain, victim, and victor posts.

Villains post messages that tick folks off. They cower behind Facebook and slam whoever recently offended them. In general terms, of course, but we all know who they’re talking about…

Victims post a play-by-play of their pitiable medical conditions, in minutia, or they find a thousand different ways to say Woe is me. Or I’m such a loser. (You better comment that he’s not a loser, or else.)

Victors use Facebook as a trophy case. That’s cool, so long as we keep it human. Our high water marks can encourage people or make them feel like dirt. Be aware. Be sensitive.

I admit it was interesting to scroll through my own posts and see what kind of attention I generally seek. What flavor of attention do you prefer? Villain. Victim. Victor. We’re all asking the question: May I have your attention, please?

 

 

Personal Journey

Telling Myself… It’s All Good

It’s a new year. Do you feel brand new? Sparkly?  Like the reset button has been pushed on your life?  The tags are still on the new personality you’re determined to create for yourself in 2014, right?  Uh, hem… Some of you have already broken your resolutions. For my part, until yesterday I could say, “I haven’t worked out all year.” It’s true; I didn’t even attempt newness in 2014.  But I’m not a slacker: I’ve got these little verses up my sleeve that have been serving me well since way back in 2013.

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

You’re thinking how appropriate these sentiments were just a few weeks ago during the holidays, with all that eating, drinking, and enjoying we all did with some help from God. But how do they apply now? Now that the lights are down, the ham is gone, the cookies firmly ensconced on the hips…

If you know me, you know I struggle with my inside voice. I mean that both ways. Comments that should have stayed firmly nailed down inside my head often zing out my mouth like kamikazes, unbidden and unhindered by discretion.  But I refer now to the outside voices of the world which sometimes penetrate my bubble, have a locker-room chat with my consciousness, and leave me black and blue. 

The media tells me I suck in more languages than I can find spoken in the General Assembly of the United Nations. My children, bless their little ungrateful and entitled souls, unknowingly sit on my self-esteem for years at a time.  Even the standard I look to every day– (as I should) the Bible, puts a gentle arm around my shoulders, gives a little squeeze, and murmurs, “I regret to inform you…”

Probably because I’m a Martha, my tried-and-true life-raft-for-my-thoughts is the verse above. I do many things in a day, and let’s just say they don’t always feel good, and I don’t always feel good about having done them– just depleted and despondent about whether any of this wheel-spinning matters.  I have to remind myself that my flawless cleaning of the cat litter box is good. My vegetarian tacos… good. Crazy that I’m not serving them to a standing ovation, I know.  So I remind myself over and over: Hey, these vegetarian tacos are good labor… and that litter box… sparkly!

Here’s an example of a day pretty much straight from my journal.

December 28, 2013

1. Sorted through Tory’s Goodwill bags – saved some useful stuff.

2. Made Ganeen pumpkin roll – kindness to others.

3. Cleaned kitty litter – kept chaos at bay.

4. Cleaned the fish – kept chaos at bay and fish alive.

5. Took kids to sell their games at Buybacks and spend Christmas money at Target – kindness to others.

6. Had soup ready for dinner when Bob got home – kindness to others/a dreaded chore: done.

7. Handled Katae’s school loan transfer – a dreaded chore: done.

I chose to do seven a day because that’s God’s favorite number.  It matters not how many you choose, so long as you begin to see the value in those little chores/errands/favors/labors you do every day. Unraveling just why these labors are so good is just as important as recognizing their goodness.  I make sure I end every point with a dash and a why-this-was-good comment. There are sometimes a hundred reasons a labor is good.  Pick your favorite one or spend lots of time writing.  That’s ok too.  Think your labors don’t make the cut? I even have a day with #1 being “Applied eye makeup – created beauty.” Really that reason could also have been “kept chaos at bay,” but this is about feeling sparkly, not snarly. Do you think I went too easy on myself with that one? There are many, many days, I choose other good labors over creating beauty in the vicinity of my face.  What I pick as my good labors changes from day to day (i.e., I don’t list cat litter every single day, unless I’m having trouble coming up with seven labors); but pick them I do, and having a record of rights is a worthwhile exercise. God says the best I can do with what’s already done, is– deem it good and thank Him for the blessing of food and drink and labor done with Him.

 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?  – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Repeat verse 100 times a day or as needed. 🙂

Personal Journey

Heal My Soul – Testimony Part III

Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. – Psalm 41:4b

My memory in the months before I acquiesced to Jesus is hazy. I know I was desperate. I know circumstantially I had everything– as far as the American Dream goes, anyway. Although I had married my prince charming, I was disappointed that I had not become a princess. Like the frog in reverse, I thought his kiss would make me into something beautiful and worthy. When I stayed me, things eventually got ugly.  My twisted thinking went like this: if I can make him bleed emotionally, I can know he loves me.  So that’s what I did.  Yet for all that work and drama, I never felt satisfied that I was loved.  I was ever-grasping at some elusive feeling, some fullness or contentment that always slipped my grip.

stained glassSome Christians I knew seemed to glow.  I don’t mean in the figurative sense; I mean literally glowed– like the stained glass images of old, the sun-shape that seemed to mat the faces. I understand if you don’t believe me.  God gives us each just what we need to make a decision.  I guess I needed that.

Thomas.  Remember him?  He was a contemporary of Jesus and still he wouldn’t believe without digging his fingers into Jesus…

On the outside I was brazen and witty, sarcastic, athletic, in-control. On the inside I was screaming for peace and attention. I wore the slippery mask of confidence, but craved a heart of it.  Like the cowardly lion who wished for a transformation, so I wanted to trade my unstable, flimsy insides for something reliable. But there was no truth. The postmodern lie was nearly my undoing.  I remember reading a book that gave the nuts and bolts, if you will, of all the major religions of the world. One of them has to be right, I thought. When I read it… nothing. More head knowledge. How can there be so many versions of truth? With so many followers of every rendition? It must all be lies, all spins off the main lie that there is something beyond us…

What finally reached me was a man who seemed to be genuinely in love with this person, Jesus. How he addressed his God was both reverent and familiar. It was authentic and lacked the scriptedness I was accustomed to getting at church. My heart melted when I heard– straight from the Bible– who Jesus was and why He came to earth:

WHO has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of a parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. – Isaiah 53:1-6

And this, written about Jesus, hundreds of years before He stepped foot on earth. That wasn’t mentioned in my nuts and bolts religion book. And there’s so much more inexplicable prediction in the Bible. I challenge anyone who hasn’t thoroughly checked out the prophecies on Jesus to finish Isaiah 53 and read the book of John.  What we holiday churchgoers were taught in our brief catechism is the tip of an iceberg so majestic and irrefutable, that, once uncovered, will forever subject us to its awesome power. That is what occurs in the heart of one who comes face to face with Jesus. That is what happened in my heart.

After church, the pastor’s wife came over to me to say hello. I apologized for the blubbering wreck I was. And I’ll never forget her deadpan answer.

That’s the Holy Spirit.

She believed that God’s Holy Spirit was responsible for making me cry, that a physiological reaction was the result of something beyond me, beyond the natural realm, even. Wherever it was from, this brokenness was new and bitter.  It was the beginning of my journey’s end as far as the search for meaning was concerned. The journey was uncomfortable; I had to come to terms with  my own limitations and inadequacies, and accept– as a gift– that God provided a way for me to be right in His eyes.  It is the greatest gift, accepting that Christ died for my sins, that He loved me enough to withstand such humiliation on my behalf.

The love of Jesus: I used to spurn it, used to mock and maul it, but now I embrace the gift we celebrate every year when we stop our freeway-style Christmas season and consider what the essence of Christmas has always been to those who keep it:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people,for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10 -11

theWordwasmadeflesh

Personal Journey

No Thanks, I’ll Do This Myself – Testimony Part II

air marshallI didn’t kill her, of course.  I just moved my car into the spot as if she were invisible, which was hard to do because she was yelling her head off and waving her arms around like my own personal air marshal helping me park my plane.  That stick shift came in handy when I revved the engine at her for good measure.

As we strolled into the mall, she stomped behind us for a ways, hurling lawsuit threats about my trying to run down a “pregnant woman.”

In my defense, she wasn’t showing.

That was me.  I always took the fight; I usually picked it.  And I’m not even Irish.

When I wasn’t being mean to people, I had this insatiable desire for approval, no– for worship. Even my goodnesses were bribes meant to gain or keep the fountain of affirmation flowing.  My happiness depended on a constant firehose stream of compliments and awards.  I won 1st place in a poetry contest? Cool, now I need The New Yorker to publish me. You say I’m beautiful– that makes me feel pretty as long as you don’t look away.  Witty?  I’m good as long as you’re still laughing… Such was my existence– endless calculating and striving after approval, adoration, accolades.  I couldn’t figure out why I had no peace, which is what led me through a litany of self-help books, including Life 101, The Healing Power of Humor, Dianetics, and The Tao of Poo (a book that pitches Winnie the Pooh as the ultimate Taoist and instructs on a Pooh-like life, full of happiness and honey).  I even got so low sometimes I tried the Bible. But that wasn’t helpful because I tried reading from the Old Testament, starting at Genesis.  After the first juicy chapters, reading the Jewish laws felt like reading the IRS tax code; I failed to see the connection between this book and help of any kind. Mind you, I was an English major. I had read Paradise Lost with an amount of relish; I even struggled through the literary gauntlet of  Leaves of Grass, but the Old Testament?

Uncle.

sacred-heart-jesusGrowing up, one of my first memories of God was the picture in my grandfather’s spare room. Since we often slept there, I’d wake up to this monstrous piece of art staring down at me, depicting an anemic, effeminate, sorrowful-looking man whose heart was visible and belted in thorns.  DIS-turbing. One arm was raised as if He had the answer to a question, and the other rested languidly near that… heart.  He did not comfort me, this Christ; He both unnerved and confused me.

Church confused me too.  We went a handful of times, and everyone seemed to know the steps but me.  Kneel.  Stand. Kneel. Stand. Mumble. Kneel. Everybody else leaving their seats, going up to the front wearing serious expressions.  I’m sure I asked why we stayed in our seats when everybody else went up, but I don’t remember what my Dad said.  He was careful with our feelings.  He probably said he preferred to stay seated– which I’m sure was true.  The singing and chanting from the front was as boring as it was unintelligible. The echoing dirges from somber, gowned men and the strange, ancient feel of the place gave me the same twisted guts as when I was sent to the principal’s office, a feeling with which I was all too familiar.  So no, I didn’t care much for the God of church.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:10

 

Personal Journey

The Lesson Losing Teaches

Actually there are several lessons taught by the strict and Spartan teacher, Losing.  Our soccer game yesterday inspired this post, but I’m hoping that it will get us through this rebuilding season, ie, losing season.  I try to be a cup-half-full thinker.2012 Spring 018

Losing teaches:

1.  I am a work in progress.  No one is finished or perfect.  Unless I’m at the olympics, losing shows the reality of my need for improvement, hard work, and humility.

2.  Excellence has its origin in loss.  The Bible puts it like this, “All achievement and all toil springs from one person’s envy of another.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:4)  How do I envy someone, until I lose to him?  Or her.  Losing inspires me to be better.

3.  The end does not justify the means.  Machiavelli wasn’t interested in learning lessons of any kind when he coined the phrase stating the opposite.  He wasn’t interested in fair play or integrity or civility.   We can thank him for inspiring Hitler, among others.  So in my play, in victory and in defeat, the means matters.   During a loss it’s even more important that I hold on to my sportsmanship. Losing is a challenge to be chivalrous.

4.  Joy comes from who I am not how we do.  We have a 50-50 chance of losing any game.   If my happiness rests on winning, then I’ll only be happy half the time.  Again, unless I’m in the olympics.  Even they come away with a silver sometimes: a loss if you’re a cup-half-empty person.

As I consider our season ahead, I thought it would be helpful to appreciate loss, since that may be what we have in store this season. I’m sure there are  more lessons to be learned from loss, and I would love to hear others.  What have you learned from losing?

*Update 9/29/13*  Thanks to the nicest soccer moms I know for their comments on fb & email!  They follow.

Lori says:  Great writing Kelly! We tell Ryan…you will win, you will lose, but you will never quit:)

Janette says:  Love it! That’s what I like about them, they never give up.

Csilla says:  I consider both winning and losing a necessary experience to build our character. We need to handle both situations with dignity and respect. Loosing doesn’t make you instantly as happy as winning but it can inspire you to work harder and want to be better. I believe that if you look at it with the right attitude, you can learn from loosing and it makes you a stronger person.
The boys are playing in the First Division with a team that almost completely fell apart. Since last season, we have lost the coach and 5 boys from the team. This season will be a challenge to prove that they can build a team and work hard together. 
Today is a new day with an other game with a 50-50 chance. As long as they are not giving up and they will be trying their best till the final blow of the whistle, I will be happy with it. :))

Colleen says: Hello Kelly! I actually read this a long time ago and had trouble coming up with a response! Of course it’s not because I am without loss. I know everyone has had the experience at one time or another.  Honestly, I am sad and hurt that we have lost our coach and some amazing players, but I am grateful that we were all part of such a wonderful team. Those kids were truly team players and a lot of that type of coaching comes not only from the coach himself, but from the parents. Isn’t it wonderful to go to each game feeling excited to watch the team play AND to sit with and talk with such a nice group of parents? Here’s to rebuilding the team into everything they know they can become! Here’s to forming friendships along the way! Here’s to the “magic” of a new season! 🙂

Personal Journey

To The Woman I Rear-Ended Today,

The answer to your question, “What the hell is wrong with [me]?” is that I’m flawed, human.  Thankfully that obvious and inescapable fact no longer plagues me as it once did.  It used to be such a burden, trying to appear just so, to wear the masks of got-it-togetherness, brilliance, wit, savvy.  I never felt known when I wore those masks.  No wonder.  But after I began to know Jesus, to spend time in the Bible and recognize love there, I eventually accepted it.  Love, that is.  When I accepted the love God has for me, the burdens of shame and guilt I had carried around no longer pressed on me.  I wasn’t even ashamed that I hit your car.  I was bummed, certainly, and sorry, especially given the fact that it was a brand new VW Beetle.  There was a time when a shiny (oh so shiny) new VW bug would have made me a raving lunatic too.  And I’ll even confess, there was a time when I would have feigned injury for some free chiropractor appointments and a big, fat settlement check.  But those are what the hell WAS wrong with me, and you asked what the hell is wrong with me now.   Ok, though God and I are like this:  picture my crossed fingers– I still mess up sometimes.  Like right after I bumped you I said an unlovely word  in the presence of my two boys.  And I smacked my dog.  Once.  Some people are 65% water; I’m 65% sarcasm.  I could go on… But I try to love like God loves,  to admit when I’m wrong, and live at peace with all men.  Which is why, after bumping you ever-so-slightly, I got out of my car to apologize and exchange insurance information.  I’d have gotten more than “ssssss–” out of my mouth if you hadn’t cut me off with your “question.”  My heart hurts when I think of it.  But I’m asking God to help me move beyond my own hurt feelings, to yours, since you clearly expect the world is full of people whose intention is to hurt you and/or your beautiful car.   Be comforted.  The tiny stamp of my license plate bolt will be sanded away, your Monroe-red paint job will be expertly re-touched and shined, and you will not even be able to tell we ever met.