April 18

Faith Required

Remember that saying about best laid plans? I feel like this is the story of my life. I recently made a decision (much like flipping a coin but it took a lot of debating in my head) as to which writing project I was going to focus on. See, my problem isn’t lack of ideas … isn’t getting words on paper … but that’s not the point of this post. Okay, so after much debate (some of which hubs had to listen to), I decided to focus on gathering stories from this blog to put together a book on parenting. Of course I’m no supermom; I was just thinking, “hey, I’ve been doing this for a while now and they’re still alive, so why not, right?”

Wrong.

Over the past couple of weeks (pretty much since the coin flip) , we’ve had some …erm, issues … arise that have thrown me for a loop. Parenting is hard, y’all. There’s no instruction manual. Every kid is different. Yada, yada, yada. So what do we, as parents, do when something comes up and we feel blindsided or out of our depth? Where do we turn?

To God.

Seriously, I don’t know how I would have made it lately without faith, without knowing that God is for me … and my kids. (He’s for you, too!) Praise music helps me remember this. Even when I wanted to cry, I’d feel so much joy driving down the road listening to Lauren Daigle.

These past weeks have reminded me that my children, even when they drive me crazy, are blessings. God entrusted them to me. But He didn’t just say, “Have at it; you’re on your own.” He’s with me every step of the way. Rather than leaning in to Him only when the going gets tough; I should keep Him at the center of every step. He should be on my mind and in my heart not only when I tell my children how much I love them, but also when I’m disciplining or having the tough conversations.

And I need to be sure I tell them how much He loves them too: how His love is infinitely more perfect and true than mine could ever be even though I’m their mother.

We don’t need to be super-parents. We just need to trust in Him.

April 7

Calling all Hot Springs’ writers!

What motivates you to write? Do you have a favorite writing spot? Or certain music to type along to?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I used to have so much more motivation and focus than I do now; though I’m not 100% certain, I often blame having children for my diminishing productivity. But how can I still blame them when they’re out of the house?! So, I’ve been taking steps recently to build back my writing habit.

One thing I’ve always been interested in is writing groups. Not so much a club, like school days of old, but more like what I imagine Tolkien and Lewis did in the Oxford days. From what I understand about the Inklings, the group would meet regularly to read/discuss/critique each other’s work, or simply to write in each other’s presence.

As I sit here at Starbucks, I wonder how many of those around me with laptops are doing the same thing I am. Perhaps that’s just another way my mind distracts me from purpose, but nonetheless, there’s something about knowing that the people you are with are working towards similar goals that pushes us. Maybe it’s accountability, maybe it’s encouragement; but, hey, whatever works, right?

I’ve been looking for a similar group near me but am not sure they exist. A colleague from UALR (who now works at UCA) used to post on Facebook about writers meeting, but that was in the Little Rock area. I also recently discovered that Hot Spring Village has a writer’s club. I’m planning to visit their next meeting, but, based on a review of their website, I’m not sure they spend time writing together.

So if you’re a writer in the Hot Springs area, and you’d be interested in this type of group, I’d love to hear from you!

March 25

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Updated 4/1/16 (see below).

Yesterday was the day I’d been waiting for with mixed emotions: the premiere of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Thrilled to once again see my beloved superhero on the big screen; anxious at the possibility of him being relegated to second best by that annoying bat. Don’t get me wrong: I like Batman. I like him a lot. But I love Superman more. I got over initial qualms about Man of Steel nearly three years ago and ended up loving it. So, this time, despite my mixed feelings, I was excited for the premiere.

Now, having seen the movie, I still have mixed emotions, just different ones.

I don’t know how movie reviewers do write ups without spoiling the whole shebang. To tell you everything I loved and didn’t love (hate is too strong a word) about the movie would give it all away. My intention is to keep this post SPOILER-FREE. It will not, however, be unbiased; I’ve already told you I love Supes. You’ve been warned.

All I could say last night after the movie:

facebook

So, I realize my “verdict” isn’t exactly a raving review, but it’s the best I could come up with at the time. Every moment I lay awake trying to fall asleep and every moment I awoke during the night was consumed with thoughts of the movie. Yes, I’m a big nerd; we’ve established this already.

Director Zack Snyder is a comic book guy … meaning he knows his source material. The movie stays true to a couple of major comic book arcs of days gone by. That’s good or bad, depending on whether you liked those arcs. Part of my issue last night was I was remembering one of those arcs slightly wrong, which threw me into a silent, sulking tailspin until my tired but geeky brain reconnected the dots correctly.

Here’s what matters:

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm589161728/tt2975590?ref_=ttmi_mi_typ_sf_35
IMDB.com

Cavill is super again; in fact, he’s even better the second time around. Yes, he can be my Superman.

 

 

 

IMDB.com
IMDB.com

Affleck does just fine as a crusty old Batman.

 

 

 

IMDB.com
IMDB.com

Gadot rocks it as Wonder Woman (shut your face, all you “too skinny” body shamers).

 

 

 

IMDB.com
IMDB.com

And, as for Eisenberg as Alexander Luthor: I think he’s the character folks are going to be the most divided over: either loving his portrayal or not. I think he knocked it out of the park. Anybody complaining probably just didn’t like his hair (or simply that he had any), which is about as silly as me hating on Amy Adams for not being a brunette.

 

The things I worried about going in to the movie:

  1. That the powers that be would make movie-studio-golden-boy Batman somehow defeat my Superman, thereby answering the age-old question of “who would win in a fight” in Technicolor and 3D for all the world to see.
  2. That the movie would essentially be another Batman movie, of which we’ve had PLENTY. Can’t my boy get his day in the sun without being overshadowed by batwings?
  3. That the next generation of fanboys (and girls), i.e., kids, will pick the Bat over the Boy Scout. It seriously bothers me that kids don’t want to be Superman anymore. I know, first world problems.

Those same worries after the movie:

  1. Without getting too much into it and spoiling the whole thing, I’ll just say I’m satisfied with how this played out. That’s it; I can’t say any more than that.
  2. The first 20 minutes is all Batman. Granted, it’s a 2 and ½ hour movie, but still. Also, Affleck gets top billing. And, of course, it’s Batman vs. Superman, instead of the other way around.
  3. [Intentionally omitting a response because anything I say will give too much away].

Things I worry about now, having seen the movie:

  1. There will be MORE Batman movies. More movies where he’s the center of attention. I shouldn’t be hating on any superhero movie potential. And, I’ll see them all, of course. It’s just, see the first #3 above.
  2. Of course, that first one is in direct contradiction to this second worry: That those movie reviewers I mentioned earlier will flex their critical muscles, focusing on negative opinions and scare people off. Basically, that bad reviews will put a damper on, maybe even kill our chances of seeing more of the same and new DC heroes brought to life. I don’t want to have to wait another 30 years to see Supes on the big screen.
  3. That the average movie-goer, the non-comic-booker, basically the masses, will think that … or even that …. (yeah, I can’t really share that either, though I bet the comic-booker knows what I’m not saying).

So, yeah, I need to see it again. And I think everyone should go see it, critics be damned. Come on, folks, don’t kill my Superman.

Update 4/1/16, after second viewing:

So I was finally able to go see the movie for a second time yesterday, and I’m so glad I did. The second time around was infinitely better. Perhaps it was because there were no surprises and the shock had worn off, although I still cried at parts. Nevertheless, it was even better the second time around, and I’d go again in a heartbeat. THAT’S  why it breaking all the box office records. So, in my best Shawn & Gus sing-songy voice (Psych) to critics and haters: suck it.

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March 18

If Cars Could Talk

I think we’re all feeling a little nostalgic about Aunt Bee. Not the original Aunt Bee.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0512602/
Image credit: IMDB.

See, that’s what we call the van.  She’s getting on up there in years and, with her dents and dings and moans and groans, she always seems frazzled and on the verge of breaking down. But, nevertheless, she always comes through for us. And, sometimes, there’s cookies. Okay, not really on the cookies (unless we buy them), but hopefully you get my point.

20160317_173527

Aunt Bee joined the family when the 8yo was just 6 months old. Even still, the older two barely remember the family vehicle we had before (a white jeep Grand Cherokee that could handle my curb attraction a bit better). She’s pushing 200 thousand miles and seems to need some sort of work every other month, but she’s hard to let go. I keep saying she’ll have to quit on us before we quit on her. Now, 8 years and 200k isn’t bad for a vehicle, and it sure is nice not having a car payment for years. There’s a line from the first Indiana Jones movie, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” Well, where Aunt Bee is concerned, it may not be the years, or the mileage, but the … experiences.

You see, Aunt Bee has not only been there for the raising of three children. She’s also survived at least 6 moves, countless road trips (with and without dogs), carpools with friends, and a wide variety of live and inanimate cargo – from instruments to sports equipment to furniture to household pets to farm animals. Over the years, Aunt Bee has toted humans, dogs, birds, lizards, snakes, spiders (!), mice, dairy goats, chickens, and rabbits. And I’m still likely forgetting something.

But it’s not just what she’s carried; it’s what she’s “seen.” There’s a “conversation mirror” on the outside of the sunglasses holder, just above the rearview mirror.

20160317_111843

It’s been a surprisingly nice little feature, allowing me to truly have eyes in the back of my head (something all mothers need at times). The other day, the Girl said we needed to install a wide-view camera to capture all the conversations and happenings that take place within the van. I think she may be on to something. Lord knows a good majority of my blog material has occurred in that setting.

Take for instance, the latest random conversation:

This past weekend, we traveled to Birmingham to visit family. While on our way to dinner with Mema and Danny, we picked up on an earlier conversation Mema had been having with the kids. No, not one about grades or school or friends. No, that’d be too normal. Instead, they’d been talking about who would do what job after the apocalypse. Because it’s always good to plan ahead.

So, Mema would be the cook. The Girl is supposed to be studying up on plants so she can be the resident Neville Longbottom in the event the world as we know it ends. Apparently they’d decided that Boy Genius (or the Professor, or Turdnugget, depending on his attitude) needed to study up on alternative fuels but he’d rejected that appointment. He wanted to be the hunter or basically do something with guns. Now, I’m the executioner: I’ll be the one to decide if you’re an asset or a liability. If you’re good for the community, you get to stay/live; if not you’re outta here. The Girl did not like this idea at all; she’s got too big a heart. She doesn’t think anybody should be killed for any reason; don’t even get her started on inevitable cannibalism!

Well, when her brother started arguing about not liking his assigned job, I said, “Dude, I’m gonna have to kill you.” Thinking he could play to sentimentality, he whined, “But I’m your son; you couldn’t kill me.” To which his sister piped up: “I could. I couldn’t kill anybody, but I’d kill you.” Silence. Then laughter.

So it’s probably a good thing there’s no camera in Aunt Bee. And clearly my nostalgia for her will go out the window when she stops being useful.

But we’ll always have cookies.

February 16

A House Divided

A lot of noteworthy stuff happened this weekend:

  • It was Valentine’s Day.
  • The 13yo attended his first school dance (and actually had fun).
  • We went to a local restaurant’s grand opening (and wine tasting, ftw!).
  • Justice Scalia died.
  • I won a door prize at a health fair (seriously, I never win anything).
  • We saw Deadpool (which is worthy of its R-rating, duh).
  • The Walking Dead returned.
  • The Girl lightened her hair (after years of wanting it darker).
  • I threw my back out (which is either exercise-related or simple payback for all my “I’m not that old” talk of late).

But, not to diminish the significance and/or seriousness of any of that, there’s really only one thing I want to talk about: the latest and last official trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Here it is ICYMI:

I’m trying so hard to not freak out right now. I’m over Batfleck. I refuse to be close-minded and hate a movie without even seeing it. But I’m struggling. I’ve already complained about the order of the names in the title. I mean, this is supposed to be a Man of Steel sequel, right? And Batman’s gotten enough silver screen royalty treatment. But, come ON.

The latest trailer, itself only a little over two minutes (2:19 to be exact), opens up with 45 seconds of pure Batman. He’s going to take out some thugs, Alfred assists, and there’s witty banter. We don’t even see Supes until the 53 (from a distance)/56 (close up) mark. Okay, okay. I know, it’s “Dawn of Justice.” Supes had a whole movie to re-introduce him to the world and now we need to see the others, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, and that darn bat. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it.

But then, at the 2:00-2:03 mark …

supesface

WHAT. THE. HECK?

(That’s much cleaner than what I thought in my head, but hey my kids might read this).

I think I whimpered rather loudly in the theater (before Deadpool). Supes face! My face! I’m crying. Here’s why:

I think I’ve mentioned before that hubs is a Batman fan. And you *may* have picked up on my Superman obsession. Now, I like Batman just fine, maybe even more than others, like a close second. But, to me, the answer to who’s the best, who would win, who’s the mack-daddy, will always always always be Superman. But the hubs has infected the kids. Every conversation about this movie invariably ends up turning into a “hey let’s stomp all over mom’s hopes and dreams” fest. The 13yo brings up gold kryptonite (dude, don’t go there) and the 8yo says, “C’mon mom, we all know Batman’s gonna win.” Curse you, hubs.

Even if I let all these shenanigans go as, at least partially, intentional aggravation, the treason continues. Hubs begins to talk about what the characters stand for and suddenly Batman’s a saint. Cue *major* eye roll.

“Batman believes people are capable of good and standing up for themselves. Superman just wants to rule over everyone and be the savior.” Well, yes, because he’s supposed to be god-like (not in a “no idols before Me” way, but merely representative; no one can deny the Biblical parallels). And, at least he doesn’t want to kill us all.

“Batman knows there are evil people, but he knows there are good ones too.” Well, Superman believes every person is capable of good.

“Batman is an ordinary man who’s made himself a hero.” Yeah, because being born into a billionaire family is ordinary.

At this point, it’s a good thing I don’t have heat vision.

heatvision

February 11

Distractions

I am an old-school writer. Or I just have ADD.  … Or maybe it’s both. Okay, focus.

I love notebooks. Spiral-bound. About half the size of a normal sheet of paper. Like this one:

20160211_131031

I especially like the cover of that one. These notebooks are among my favorite things. I have too many to count, shoved in drawers and closets or on shelves all around the house. Some may have a few unmarked pages left, but most are filled to their edges with words. I audibly gasped and, according to the Girl, turned white as a ghost, the other day when she picked up one from my nightstand and opened it.

“You should never, ever do that,” ebbed from my lips.
“Do what?” she asked innocently, closing and placing the notebook down.
“Open one of my notebooks without asking,” was my somewhat strangled reply. All the breath had left me.

Funny thing was, the notebook was empty. Oh, how I love fresh notebooks. But the thought of her seeing my words nearly gave me a heart attack. As a writer, I want my words to be read, but only when I’m ready. What’s in my notebook isn’t ready yet. It’s still … cooking … not yet ready to be tasted.

But why notebooks? Why is that my preferred method of writing? Though I’ll write until my arm aches, I prefer creating in longhand. I read something years ago about how the process of handwriting invokes creative processes in one’s brain. And it’s really true for me. I’ve tried to explain before how I’m really a “thinker” because I’m always writing in my head but so rarely get those words on paper. The Writer’s Circle page on Facebook shared this pic today:

The Writer's Circle.
The Writer’s Circle.

But I am more likely to get them out in longhand than typed (at least initially).  So maybe that’s it; my creative processes require it.  Or, more likely, I just can’t handle distractions.

Ever since I decided to jump, I’ve had several planned writing days. I get up with one goal: write something. I’ve been teetering back and forth over whether to write something short, like an article or personal essay, and submit for publication; or to make actual progress on one of the many books that have been “works in progress” for most of my life. On these planned writing days, I always start the same way: by sitting down at my laptop ready, willing and rearing to go. And I always end up, hours later, having written nothing, submitted nothing, progressed nothing. Why? Distractions.

A major distraction as of late had to do with the hacking of my personal blog. It was a painful and cumbersome process, but after days (weeks?) of frustration, the blog is clean and running securely again.

But distractions don’t have to be major, to throw me off course. This wonderful thing called the Internet (which I truly believe is wonderful) pulls me away from writing so easily with simple day to day items. I sit down with my laptop and then … SQUIRREL!  It all starts with email. I check it and remember a thousand little things I need to do: finishing editing those chapters for a colleague, return that book to Amazon (which technically hubs should be doing since he ordered it by mistake), pay those bills, and so on and so forth. Then, my phone dings with a text or Facebook notification. Next thing I know, I’ve pointed my browser to Facebook because the laptop screen is bigger than my phone screen (seriously, I am NOT. THAT. OLD. as we’ve established so I don’t know what the deal is with my eyes) … and down the rabbit hole I go.

Here’s another recent share from The Writer’s Circle on Facebook:

The Writer's Circle.
The Writer’s Circle.

I could replace “Watch YouTube videos” with “Read other blogs” or “Search internet for [X]” or even sometimes “Write fanfiction” (it’s easier to write because the characters are already developed). And I could clarify “Stare into space” as “Daydream an entire book in my head, forgetting that the words won’t magically appear on screen.” Seriously, I had to go sit at McDonald’s (it’s close to my house and they have dollar sodas) the other day with my notebook just to get some writing done.

So, how do you deal with distractions? How do you get the words on paper? (I mean, aside from the obvious.) I read somewhere recently about a program that deletes your work if you pause for too long … maybe that’s more motivating and beneficial than I can imagine, but I just keeping thinking that distraction would lead to anger … at the app … at myself. And, this I know for certain: anger is a major distraction to creativity.

So, for now, I guess I’ll stick to my notebooks. And lots of pencils. Did I mention I got an electric pencil sharpener for Christmas and it’s the bomb? Really. I can sit for hours just sharpening pencils and listening to that sound … um, yeah, distractions.

February 8

First-borns and First Dates

storefront

Reflections from a Friday night:

You know how they say, “time flies”? Well, just last week the 15-year-old asked when she was allowed to go on dates and tonight I’m sitting outside the Books-A-Million, while she has coffee alone WITH A BOY.

storefront

First, I’m going to pause right here and let the location sink in. My Girl’s first date is at a bookstore. Y’all, that there is parenting done right.

She set the whole thing up; I was basically just the chauffeur. I guess all moms end up being glorified taxi driver (that is, if the smell of sour milk and/or stale french fries equals glorified). Once dad and I had given her permission (with parameters, of course) to go on dates, she asked out a boy from church and made the plans. I was not *allowed* to take a picture of her with the boy or to post anything about the event on social media; to which I agreed, with the understanding that she’d be in for full blog treatment. 🙂

So here’s what happened (the beginning of every good story, right?):  I dropped her off in front of the bookstore and went into a neighboring store with the understanding that she would text me either that the boy was already there waiting for her or upon his arrival. An era goes by sans text. Okay, not really. After a few minutes of no contact, I’m thinking all sorts of things so I text her:

texts

There was maybe a couple of seconds pause between each of those texts. By this time, I’m in full-on panic mode. I mean, I watch Criminal Minds. Look again at that picture of my view.

store with van

Here I’ll blow it up for you.

van

Doesn’t that look like the type of van an unsub would drive? In my head, she’s been kidnapped and is probably already dead. It’s been 11 minutes. Clearly, I’m not cut out for this “my child dates” thing.

I go storming in (really, no exaggeration, I think I almost pulled the door off) to the bookstore, and immediately see the Girl sitting at a table with a boy. Fortunately, his back was to the door. But she saw me and I saw her and there was that moment between a mom and daughter when no words need to be said but everyone knows we’re gonna TALK IN LOUD VOICES about this later. So I turned around and walked out, returning to my taxi van and awaiting the end of her date.

From what I could tell from our conversation after, the date went well. Does that mean they’ll go out again? Does she like him? Heck if I know. She’s a teenager. They never give straight answers to anything. Oh my gosh, she’s a teenager.

And just yesterday I was changing her diapers. Okay, not really, but it sorta feels that way.

20160205_195729

January 28

Am I too old for this sh*t?

Lately, I’ve been feeling older than I should. I’m certain it’s due to the creaks and pops my joints make or the involuntary groans that escape my mouth upon any movement. No, seriously. We’ve been doing this “boot camp” at the local YMCA for the past couple of weeks. Tuesday was heavy on the biceps (which I didn’t even know I had in my little bird arms), so here I am 2 days later barely able to lift much of anything. Of course, it doesn’t help my feelings of decrepitude that the Girl, who’s participating in the boot camp with us, can run 5 laps around the overhead track without breaking a sweat while I’m panting at the top of the stairs (i.e., the ones you take just to get to the track). I keep telling myself I could do that at 15 … but that’s been so long ago, I’m not really sure anymore.

Okay, okay, so I’m not really that old. But I heard something on the radio a few weeks ago that has stuck with me … in a bad way. It was the day I got uber-introspective and the DJ was talking about how experts have determined we really do get “too old” to do certain things. Like when you’re too old to suck your thumb. Or sleep in the same bed with your parents. The one that got me was these experts saying you’re too old to “start over” at age 40. The DJ elaborated that this meant switching careers and other major life changes like that.

On the one hand, I just kept picturing Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon series. So, he gets partnered up with the younger crazier cop, played by a mullet-sporting Mel Gibson, and refrains “I’m too old for this sh*t” at various times throughout the movie. At one point in LW2, he’s in the bathroom for his daily constitution and discovers that the commode has been rigged with a pressure-sensitive bomb. Here’s how I remembered he scene: there he is, pants around his ankles, newspaper in one hand, the other wiping beads of sweat from his brow and hoping beyond hope that his a$$ doesn’t blow up. And he says “I’m too old for this sh*t.” Okay, I don’t know if he actually says it in that scene, but, given the ramifications of his current position, the visual in my head gave me a giggle. And because this scene was in the first sequel, I totally almost typed number 2, but thought better of it. I guess sometimes I still have the mind of a 12-year-old. But I digress.

On the other hand, I’m flat-out offended that anyone would say I’m too old to do anything. I mean, here I am at 40-something thinking of going back to school. Yes, I made the career change (from lawyer to college teacher) in my 30s and going back to school would just be furthering that, but still. What about never being too old to be happy? Or sleeping when we’re dead? Or some other such cliché I can’t think of at the moment (not because I’m old and my brain cells don’t work as well as they used to, but rather because I’ve always had a terrible memory). C.S. Lewis said “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” So there.

From http://www.ets.org/gre/
From http://www.ets.org/gre/

Yes, I’ve decided that I haven’t really decided whether I’m going back to school. Read that again if you like. I’d made a decision to apply for Ph.D. programs, registered for the GRE, and then *decided* again (re-decided? Sheesh, changed my mind!) that I may not go right way (or ever). Instead, I’m supposed to be focusing on my writing. But the GRE is tomorrow. I’d put it off from December to give myself more time to prepare but have instead used all the extra time to psych myself out. You’d think that not even knowing if I’m going to apply to any programs would take some of the pressure off, right? Wrong. I never used to be afraid of tests; I mean, I’ve taken (and passed) 3 state bar exams; after that, everything should be cake. Of course, it’s been YEARS and I’m 40-something and my brain is TIRED and I’m too old for this sh*t.

My anxiety is the pressure-rigged commode. Here’s hoping is doesn’t blow up in my – face.

January 14

“You are gifted … JUMP :)”

Yesterday, I was talking to a colleague about how she’s recently gone back to school; she’s working on her *second* master’s degree, this one in social work. So I admitted to her that I’m scheduled to take the GRE in a couple of weeks. With a look of what can only be described as pure astonishment, she asked “Why?! What are you doing?!” So, I told her: “I’m thinking of going back to get my Ph.D.” Now, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time (almost did it instead of law school), but only seriously (i.e. to the point of contacting schools, researching programs and registering for the GRE) in the past year. We talked for a little while longer about plans, and then I headed home. On the drive, I got to thinking about the look on her face. Was it that unbelievable that I’d want to go back to school? Perhaps because most people see the law degree as terminal, the idea of anything beyond is unreasonable. But it all depends on what you want to do, right? So I started thinking (really, really thinking) about why I wanted to go back to school. Why do I want that Ph.D.? Here’s what I thought about:

Well, for one thing, I’ve just always wanted it. But that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to put myself or my family through the stress.

Okay, so pragmatically, it may really be necessary for a long-term goal. Bryan and I have talked about what we’d like to do later in life … and something that we always come back to is teaching at a university somewhere. I’ve been teaching as an adjunct at multiple secondary institutions for about 7 years now. During that time, I have applied for maybe 3-4 full-time positions to no avail. I don’t know this for absolute certain, but I think at least one reason why I haven’t been successful in obtaining a full-time professorship is because I *only* have a J.D. rather than a Ph.D. Academia may be the only place in the universe where that distinction matters.

But is going back to school just another way of “putting off” my writing? Well, of course it is. I think I have some sort of mental block when it comes to finishing my writing projects. It’s not writer’s block, so much as it’s just this huge boulder or mountain that looms before me whenever I think of the book I’ve been trying to write for most of my life. And that mountain is something I can’t get past or over. It’s too high, and, darnit, I can’t fly.

Nevertheless, I’ve always felt like I was meant to do something … I don’t know … more. Like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Like I haven’t reached the people I’m supposed to reach. Like my voice hasn’t spread as it should.

But is that just human nature? I mean, does everyone feel like they’re supposed to do something more. Why do I feel that way? Am I just being egotistical?

Just then, as I’m thinking about all this on the drive home, Francesca Battistelli’s “He Knows My Name” came on K-LOVE. Here’s some of the lyrics:

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh

 

So, crap, yeah, I’m being egotistical.  But then, more lyrics …

I’m not meant to just stay quiet
I’m meant to be a lion
I’ll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I’ve got

 

Um, wait … there’s the voice thing again.

So, of course, I did what I do whenever I find myself overthinking something: I talked to Bryan about it. I walked him through all my thoughts from the drive home (he’s a very patient man, y’all). He agreed that going back to school because “I just want to” isn’t really good enough and that, though the long-term goal reasoning is valid, I am just trying to put off the writing. So we talked about taking some time to focus on my writing. He encouraged me to gather some stuff from my blog and put together some stuff for publication.

This morning, before work, he watched a video of Steve Harvey talking about when God gives you a gift (your parachute) you have to jump for it to open. Then, I found this on the doorstep:

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When I texted him a thank you, he responded, “I think the Holy Spirit was talking to you yesterday.” Well, yeah, me too.

So here I am working on my writing, trying to stretch the inspiration from that little note into something productive. And I realized I haven’t posted anything on this blog since last April … ironically, just a few short months after posting a “new commitment” to my writing. Geez.  I’ve spent the last couple of hours going through old posts and picking up on themes. I’m writing – I’m happy – the kids are cracking me up – and God is good. I’m not writing – I don’t know what I’m doing – and I’m failing at life. (God is always good; it’s me that’s got issues). Oh, and there’s usually some Superman or Harry Potter stuff thrown in here and there, too. I jotted the following down (intended as a note to Bryan): “Good gosh. All I’ve really accomplished is feeling like a failure and missing MorganMorganMorgan something fierce. And on top of that Alan Rickman died today.” For some reason, that got me writing. And now, 900 words later, I don’t feel so much a failure as I do a work-in-progress (which, no surprise, is what my last not-so-recent post was about).

Yeah, I’m jumping.

April 24

Imperfect Progress

I used to be tough. Or, at least, I thought I was tough. Not physically, of course (I mean, have you seen my bird arms?). But in a verbal argument, I could hold my own and then some. I was like a Kung Fu master where my words were like combination kicks and my tone the serpent’s teeth sharp enough to reach the marrow of the bone. Recently, in women’s bible study, I tried to explain this, calling my outbursts “verbal vomit.” I certainly wouldn’t have called them that at the time. I would have said something like I was quick-witted or sharp-tongued; you know, something that had a more positive connotation. Because I took pride in my ability to “put someone in his place.” Yeah, pride. It seemed as if I spent most of my time looking for a fight, looking for something to get riled up about. And I was angry all the time. I was like Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, ready to morph into an oversized green rage monster on the turn of a dime. You see, anger was an easier emotion to deal with; it was like a balm or seal over feelings that would otherwise be hurt.

I’ve been changing for awhile, and I’m different now. I’m not tough. Or rather, I’m not tough-hearted anymore.  And I cry a lot more. And I’m okay with that.

Some may say this is due to age – maturing, mellowing out – or ample anxiety medication, but I say by the grace of God, I am different.

The women’s group I sometimes attend has been studying Lisa Terkeurst’s Unglued for the past several months. We’ve been talking about making “imperfect progress” toward being women who do not let the little things (or the big things) steal the joy and kindness God has placed in our hearts. Our pastor’s wife, the ever-so-talented Tanner Cangelosi, painted a piece for us displaying one of the study’s Bible verses:

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4).

I feel like she painted it on my heart.

Copyright 2015. Tanner Cangelosi.
Copyright 2015. Tanner Cangelosi.

I recently had a run-in with someone. I wasn’t expecting a difficult conversation; in fact, I’d called to apologize for something. But before I knew it, the conversation took an ugly turn. Rather than responding in anger (which certainly would have been the 20-year-old me’s response), I felt sorrow. Sorrow for the original thing I’d called to apologize about; sorrow for the words that were cutting through me and the relationship; sorrow for anything else that may be going on in the other person’s life to cause such vehemence; pure sorrow. My heart hurt. And rather than lash back, I ended the call. And I cried. Cried for me. Cried for the other person. Cried for the situation. And every time I started to get angry, I cried more. I’m tearing up now just writing about it. Years ago, I would have called myself a baby. Now, I’m thankful for the tears, because they’re evidence of my heart which, above all else, should reflect God.

Of course, I still mess up sometimes, lash out, spout off things I wish I didn’t. But, I’m better than I was; and I’m constantly trying to be even better. I’m claiming that “imperfect progress.” God’s love and faithfulness have bound my heart (and my mouth, praise Him!). And like Tanner’s painting (of which I’ve saved a photo on my phone), I’m carrying His love and faithfulness around with me everywhere I go, along with a box of tissue.