after doubt has had it’s way… write

“Honey, I can’t stop moving cause I might not get going again”, my grandpa often said.  I thought he was talking about going for a walk, or wrangling horses, or making hot dog and parmesan cheese tacos.  Turns out his observation applies to much, much more…

Like writing words on paper… which sounds kind of wimpy compared to what he used to do.

So in my effort to begin again, I join this community of writers talking about overcoming writers doubt.  You will find their inspiring essays at The Positive Writer, hosted by Bryan Hutchinson.

Months ago I hit the Pause button on my writing.  The blog posts were getting farther apart, they were more fluff than substance and the angst I felt at hitting the Publish button didn’t seem worth it.

I’ve never been a tower of self-confidence anyway.  And after a few years of caregiving in an awkward family environment, I doubted my ability on almost every level.  Writing was no exception.

I still wrote down blog post ideas.  I jotted chapter details for the book I will write.  But my journal was the only place that saw my words every day.  Private words between me and God.  Prayers really.

When I tried to write other things I found myself dissecting every word, every thought behind the word, judging who might be offended, who might think me weird. It got so bad I began to censor what was entered in my journal.  I mean, what would “they” think if “they” somehow read this stuff?

ENOUGH.

What I had really done was hit the Mute button, not the Pause button.

I muted my own voice. 

And when your writing focus is memoir… that doesn’t give you much to work with.

For me, the battle with self-doubt as a writer is a spiritual one.  It’s called – the fear of man.

Lately I’ve been studying Philippians 4: 8-9. “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable….”.

As lovely as those words are, I used to think of them as too Pollyanna-ish.  But the more I reflect, the more able I am to attach pictures of my story to them… even the hard parts of the story.

It’s become a way to identify the endless list of what I’m grateful for AND given me a new way to look at the dark days.

I catch glimpses of God’s mercy poking thru the rubble of a messy life.

I see His light shine thru and I want to share it.

I’m using these verses as a framework for what I write.  And that’s a good thing, because later on in those scriptures it admonishes us to put into practice what has been seen, heard and learned.   As I learn to filter the good, the bad and the ugly thru them, I’m less concerned about what any man thinks.

I am more compelled to share a loving God who is always with me, even when I doubt… I am compelled to accept who he created me to be… and I acknowledge it’s not for me to worry about what “they” might think.  He’s well able to take care of that.

This battle is not new.  I’ve spoken of it before.  And it will appear again.

But each time I face it I become stronger.  The more focused I am on the truth of God’s presence with me, the easier it is to click the correct button….

PUBLISH

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A Blog Do-Over, of sorts

I became intrigued with the blogging world about three years ago and began to follow several.  By e-reader or email, these blogs faithfully showed up.  For awhile.

Then some tapered off so I’d need to remind myself what it was I liked about them in the first place.

And then the day came when I’d open my email and ask “who are you and why are you in my in-box”?

I “unfollowed” several of those blogs… because I didn’t really have the time.  But it made me feel bad.  No one likes to be unfollowed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The blogs I do enjoy and stick with share these qualities… they post on a regular schedule and they do one or more of the following: teach, encourage, inspire, entertain, make me laugh.  I look forward to those posts like my Dad used to enjoy his morning paper.

That’s the kind of blogger I wanted to be when I started this in March of 2011.

But I ended up being the unreliable, slightly depressed kind… who lost her way.

By the summer of 2011, it was clear my life was changing.  And that October, Doug and I moved here to care for his mother who suffers from dementia.

I never wanted to write about that.

I’ve watched her for almost two years, sink into what must be a living hell.  And I let that darkness and confusion fall on me.

Heck, I let it wrap me up in a cocoon.  And I had just about decided to stop any type of writing….

Because every time I sit at this keyboard, and my fingers stop while I think… like right now, actually… I hear a voice that says …

Just quit

You do not have to do this

YOU ARE A LOOSER… you have nothing to say that anyone cares about

Give up.  You make life harder than it has to be…

It was really easy to type those words because I hear them all the time.

But here’s the thing… they are a big, fat lie.

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I do have something to say… about 44 years with the same crazy guy, on being a mom, a grandma, a daughter, an employee, a so-so cook, a traveler, a superb killer of mice, a lover of flora and fauna who sucks at gardening.  I have perspective on those things. I have perspective on feeling 18 on the inside, with knees that remind I’m 64 every time I walk down stairs… or run, like the night I stepped on a bat.

I also have perspective on my faith which holds all this crazy life together… and about my Heavenly Father who has blessed me more than I deserve, who sees the end of the road and just wants me to trust.

What I do not have perspective on is living with dementia, her pain and suffering, our pain and suffering and my irritating habit of trying to understand everything.  It’s all too big and in my face.  So I have to let it go… at least in this space.  I’ve filled four journals with pain and confusion, and that’s where it’s going to stay.

So that means when I do have a terrible big, ugly, bad day… I can write about it in my journal, close the pages and hurry outside so I can suck at gardening some more… or write about California poppies that grow in Oregon… or about eating pancakes with my father-in-law.

Since deadlines seem to work for me… and I like to check things off my calendar… I plan to post twice a week.  I want to be a blogger that readers can count on.  All 10 of you… 🙂

And I plan to have the rough draft of my Alaska book (you know, the one I talk about but no one has ever seen??)  done by December 31st of this year.  Because I need to be ready…..

It turns out my husband is finally going to retire later this fall.  He’s a really old guy so this is a good thing.  And he says when he retires we’re going to get in the truck and go (obviously with some pre-planning due to our living situation).  He doesn’t know where we’re going (which doesn’t surprise anyone who knows him).  But based on the distant past when he picked me up for coffee and four hours later we arrived in Lake Tahoe… we could end up anywhere.

So I’ll plan to take the lap top and book edit on the go.  I’ll be ready.

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Did I Mess Up Already?

So my last post…. I share my big dream to the extent I know it.  I say something about “…be joyful, blah, blah…regardless of circumstance, blah, blah…write, blah, blah…be encouraging, blah, blah”……

This week… I don’t want to write a post AT ALL because I couldn’t stay joyful and I feel like a failure so why bother with any of it?

But see, that’s where I always go wrong.  Because this is a process.  And it’s a just begun process.  So why should I expect to have an end result?  And besides, I’m thinking that being joyful is kind of a day by day type of thing anyway.  Maybe.

So this week I’m supposed to write about the small step I took toward my big dream.

A small step indeed.  Two actually….

One step – I write in my journal every day.  Not alot… just enough.  When I write in my journal ideas jump out at me, sometimes even creative ones.  And sometimes when I read over what I wrote days before I see answers.  It’s better to write just a little than to sit and think about it.

Second step – that joy thing.

I’m great at 5 a.m. when the house is quiet.  I can read and pray and thank and worship.  Sometimes I get all the way to lunch before the bubble bursts.  Sometimes we make it to dinner… but rarely thru dinner.  And then there are days I walk down stairs to put the coffee on, and the circumstance I cannot control, cannot understand, cannot avoid… is waiting right there.  Right at the bottom of the stairs.

So I think this one Christmas snow globe is staying out for awhile.  Maybe all year.  It’s on the windowsill on the landing.  I see it a gazillion times a day when I run up and down.

My second small step… just to stop and read.  JOY.

A reminder.  A tap on the shoulder  Don’t forget….. JOY.

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Filling in the Sky

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I’ve been ruminating on Holley’s invitation to join the pursuit of a “God-sized Dream”.

My God-sized Dream.

I’m to wrap that dream with words today.  Seriously.  Not as easy as I thought it would be.

What I dream about has changed so much.  Like when I was six… and wanted to be a cowboy.  Since I was a girl, that dream died a sad death.  Then it was an actress, a journalist, research scientist, author, farmer, off the grid survivalist (but not crazy weird or anything), quilter (I have yet to make a complete quilt)…

So after a whole lot of years of living, I’ve ended up with a cowboy hat full of broken, lost, half-completed, ignored, hazy dreams.

This year I must focus.  On the dream.  Because the years left are fewer than I care to think about.

So I’m looking at this God-sized dream thing like the jigsaw puzzle we started over Christmas.  I promised my parents I’d finish it and send them a picture.  All that’s left is the sky.

But it’s all so blue and same and shapeless and vague.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So the best words I can wrap around my God-sized dream are these:

I will live joyfully each day regardless of circumstance.  I will write about these days in a way that honors God… with a goal to share hope and encouragement.

I finished the puzzle this evening.

And wouldn’t you know it… there’s a piece missing.  It’s ok.  That’s the one God will fill in.

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Day Eleven ~ Missing In Action

31 Days of Aging Grace is still fresh in my mind.  I’ve never written and posted to my blog for 31 days straight.  Well, almost 31 days…

If you look at the list of links during the month of October, day eleven is link-less.

I tried to cover up a bit and glossed over it on day twelve, but the truth is…

… my default of quitting was hard at me that day.

I didn’t think I really could finish the whole month.

Didn’t think I’d have enough to say.

Didn’t think it really mattered if I posted or not.

Discounting the “optional” things I do is a problem.

When it comes to paying bills, or going to work, or cooking or cleaning or being there for my children when they were growing up… that was not optional.  Doing what I do here every day is not either.

Those creative, optional things that I want to do “when I have time”… I set them on the back-burner with ease.  I tell myself its “no big deal”. 

But it is.  Those things are part of who I am.  And meant to be done.

What optional things do you put off while you wait for more time?  Hint from one who knows… more time never comes.  You just must decide to do it.  Yep, you do.

So if I can write here for 31 days, I can commit to finishing a couple of projects I set aside.  No excuses.

There were over 1200 bloggers posting away for those 31 days of October.  I’ll mention them from time to time.  There were two especially meaningful to me…

Gary Moreland: Dot Connector and his series of 31 Days of Connecting the Dots.  He’s fun and easy to read.  He wrote an e-book called Scary Hope.  If you want to be motivated and encouraged to go after that thing you want to do… you need this.

And…

Thirty-One, A Novel – by the writer of the Traveling Lighter blog.  She chose to write a fictional short story of a woman who made simple changes each day over the course of a month.  These changes moved her from a place of loneliness and discouragement to a place of hope.  Beautifully written.

Hmmm… I sense a pattern.  Seem to be drawn to writing that gives hope.

Hope.  We need it.  Fresh every day.

Someday is only pretend…

someday…. when I grow up I’ll never get married or have kids and I will travel all over and do things and meet people and write great stories – yea, I’m going to be a writer…

someday… when my sons are grown I’ll have time to write about the places we’ve lived and people we’ve met and the things we did – yes, I’ll have lots of time to write then…

someday… when this suffocating war is over and my boys are safe home I’ll be able to breath – I’ll be creative again – yes, I’ll have lots of time to write then…

someday… when he and I retire we’ll travel all over and meet people and do things and I’ll write it all down – yes, I’ll have lots of time to write then…

someday…

…you tricked me – you are a fake – while I waited for you ….

… I stood in the shadow, watched the party, and waited for my turn.

I filled my role, did my job, loved my people, followed Jesus… and wondered – – when do I get to be a writer?

And really, truly.. all I had to do was decide.

I AM A WRITER.

I write my story today.

Because “someday” isn’t real.

I’ve written this post as an entry to Jeff Goins “You are a Writer” competition.  Check out his link… especially if you are a writer.

Throw a duffel bag at me… really, it’s ok

Twice I circled the arrival lanes at Anchorage Airport.

No husband.

He had called two hours earlier, and I must say, after nine weeks it was about time.  The kids and I scrambled into the old Chevy suburban and trekked to town… 45 minutes on a good day… one hour on a bad.  Today it was very bad.  I was glad to at least be at the airport.

Working oil pipeline camps, he was normally gone 4 weeks and home 2.  This time he’d been called for an emergency… then they couldn’t find a replacement for him.

All these weeks later, I was about to make my third circle thru the arrival area.

THUNK…. 

….a familiar duffel bag hit the hood of my car and rolled up on the windshield.

And there he was.  I think.

Needing a haircut when he originally left town, it now touched the top of his shoulders.  He had a beard, crazed bloodshot eyes and his flannel shirt and jeans hadn’t seen a washer in a while.

My clean-shaven, well-groomed husband looked like a hippy… and I was supposed to recognize that??

At that particular moment he wasn’t too thrilled with me, but we’ve laughed about that homecoming many times over the years.

The other day I was thinking about the circles I drive in my mind as I read THIS by Emily Freeman.

I do a lot of circular things… in my head, while driving, while walking.  The driving and walking circles are generally because I’m lost.

The circles in my head are generally because I’m lost in fear.

In March I made a committment to outline my book – thoroughly.   And add 10,000 words to it.  The outline is done and I’m happy… it’s the first time I’ve had a concrete writing plan to work with.

Then I placed the words already written in their appropriate slots.  And I wrote a few more words.  A very few.  Not even close to 10,000.

And for the last couple weeks it’s just been.. kind of.. sitting around… taunting me.

In the meantime I have sorted thru old tax records to “neaten them up a bit”, sorted books, organized utensil drawers in the kitchen, and generally let the fear of making a fool of myself blot out the things I really want to do.

Emily’s words inspire and make me wonder what would happen if I went all out for what drives me… those things that poke and prod and say “pay attention to me”.

I keep thinking of the boy who wanted to fly, an aunt who wanted to sing, the music and art my grandmother created but the world never saw… all the amazing ideas, talents, and giftedness of family and friends.  Why do we have these things circling within on an endless loop if we’re not meant to do them or be them or share them?

And I’ve been remembering the kind-of-scared, kind-of-brave and slightly naive version of me who loaded her pregnant self and two-year old son into a truck with her husband and headed 3,000 miles north so many years ago… not knowing where we would live or how we would live.  What happened to her?  And where did this wimpy version come from?

And the big question…. how many more loops do I get thru the arrival lanes?

Time’s flying… thanks for throwing the duffel, Emily.

On Dental Care, Sweat Rags and Leaving a Legacy

I’ve been thinking a lot on the legacy I will leave behind.  Not sure why this has captured my thought process so much lately.  Of course, living with an aged person… and on the fast track to becoming one myself, I guess it’s kind of “normal”.

I mean, what will my kids and grandkids remember most about me?  Will they laugh at the fond memories?  Cry because they miss me?  Will they cuddle up in the quilts I imagine I might make for them someday, cradling one of my beloved books?  Do they even care about quilts?  Or books?

Or…. will they breathe a sigh of relief and say “man, that was one crazy old gal”?  Will they find something embarrassing stashed in a dresser drawer?  Or written in a journal?  Will they put a sticker over my face in the family photos?  I don’t know.

However, I am thinking it would be good to review my journals.

Recently, while on my quest to sort boxes of stuff and part with stuff so my life is no longer ruled by stuff, I found this….

….our old family toothbrush holder.  All our names in that ongoing circle.  My mom made it for me.

Back in the day I did a lot of ordering about and commanding of the brushing of teeth…

“brush those teeth and get to bed!! – – don’t you dare leave this house without brushing your teeth!! – – get out of bed and get those teeth brushed!! – – I can’t afford dental bills!”

And oddly, I didn’t really give a rip about our ceramic tooth-brush holder back then.  So why am I all misty eyed over it now?

Then there were the driving lessons with teenage sons.

I was not good at that.  It made me nervous.  Always prepared however, I kept paper towels in the car.  Then when my hands got clammy and started to sweat profusely I could dry them off.  Besides, there are myriad uses for paper towels when you tote a car load of boys around.

Sons referred to the paper towels as my “sweat rags”.

Every time we headed out, I would grab my handful of towels, try desperately to stifle the sighs and groans… all the while stomping on the imaginary brake all parents wish they had on the passenger side of the car.

It wasn’t very pretty.

One weekend David and I were visiting his grandparents.  It was a two-hour drive in a rural area and a great chance for him to practice.  But about five minutes into the drive home he just pulled the car over, turned off the ignition and handed me the key.  His stealy-eyed glare said more than words ever could.

I always felt bad about that.

David went on to become an excellent driver and a leader of men in war.  So I feel a tad silly looking back on all the stressing over teeth-brushing and car-driving.  He does have a beautiful smile though.

I don’t want my sons remembering all that goofy stuff… at least not in a “she was a pain in the neck” way.  So I’ve got to come up with better things.

It’s a forgone conclusion my legacy will have nothing to do with monetary value.  Hope they won’t mind

And I’m not sure I will ever finish all the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 done quilts and knitted afghans I’ve started.

This month I had a goal to add another 10,000 words to the story of us.  I won’t make that goal, but I did complete a very detailed blueprint of what this story will look like.  And I feel good about that.

It turns out that knowing where you’re headed is quite helpful in the writing process.

So for now, that’s my plan.  Just keep writing the story of us.  There are still things I need to tell them – – better things that just to brush their teeth.  I like to think of them reading and laughing and maybe even shedding a tear or two over things they couldn’t possibly have known back then.

I’d like to be the passer on of the flame… of family knowledge and love.

And I’m keeping that toothbrush holder.  Vase for small flowers?  Pencil holder for my desk?  A place to stash my “fat-free” red vines?  Yes.  I like that.

Writing Honestly – or – Writing, Honestly?

I am amazed at how hard this is… once I’ve made a decision and a committment to do something… how hard it is to do.

On March 1st I joined an accountability group of writers to set goals for the book I’ve wanted to write for twenty years.

First off… just saying I joined a group of writers sounds silly to me.  I do love to write.  I write alot, actually.  But I’ve never described myself as “writer”.  Maybe that’s part of my problem.

So for the month of March we’re supposed to work off the list of goals we established, then check in to encourage,  to be encouraged, to be accountable.

I started off great with the goals.  

Life got a little busy on the weekend, but these things happen. 

Yesterday was good – – ideas were pouring out of me faster than I could write them down. 

Once I’d gathered the bits and pieces of writing I’d done over the years, I was amazed at the volume of it.

So today I was going to tighten up my outline and put all my new ideas from yesterday in order.

But what am I doing?? 

Well, I had to pay bills this morning, so did that.  I ate breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen.  I read several blogs.  I checked email.  I made a healthy lunch.  Then I grabbed a handful of pretzels to stuff in my mouth.  Then I tried out a garbage disposal cleaning packet that is supposed to make it smell all fresh and lovely….. 

…… it still doesn’t smell lovely.

But am I writing?  No.  I have all these fantastic ideas scribbled on two notebook pages and it’s like I’m afraid to do anything with them.

I’m going downstairs right now and take over the dining room table, spread out my notebooks, get a couple large pieces of craft paper and plot out this book.

Then for the next couple days I’ll flesh out the outline – my writing roadmap – so I know where I’m going. 

By the end of March, I will have 10,000 additional words added to this book of mine.  That’s why I have that date countdown running on the left side of this blog.

There will be lots of writing to do after March… this is just to get the ball rolling.

So, no more talking about it.  No more mindless eating because I know what I should be doing, but not doing.  And no more garbage disposal tom-foolery, or tom-cleanery. 

Just the book.

I will do this thing.

Boldly Go… or Hold Back in Fear?

The parable of the talents in the Bible has always bugged me.  The end result seemed unfair……

….a wealthy man leaves on a journey.  Before leaving he gives talents (money) to three of his servants.  Five talents to one, two to another and one to the last.  While he’s gone the first two servants invest and double his money.  This greatly pleases the man.  The third servant buried the money he was given.  He buried it out of fear of the man.  As a result his one talent was taken away, given to the other servants, he was called lazy and thrown out of the house. (Matthew 25: 14-28)

Now that seemed a little harsh to me.  At least the guy kept the money safe.  He didn’t squander or run away with it.  He just did…..NOTHING.

I stumbled upon this passage again the other day.  Oddly, something else popped out at me.  Could it be… it really has nothing to do with money but more about how I live my life?

This week I viewed a courageous blog.  An Iraq war veteran posted a pictorial essay of his experience.  War being controversial, he opened himself up to criticism.  And he got a lot of it.

He also received thanks for his service and appreciation for the amazing photos.  The young man’s responses were gracious and kind…even to those who criticized his involvement in war.  I was impressed by his candor and humble spirit.  But it made me wonder………

How many times have I been prompted to do something for someone, give something away, to say or write particular words…. but chose not to?

And why didn’t I?  Because I was afraid… of being ignored, exposed, criticized, rejected, challenged, or loosing what I have.  I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

When I get the urge to give a material gift, or share a word of encouragement, or lend a hand to finish a task, but don’t do it… it’s the same as burying that talent in the ground.  It’s lost.  But if I invest that ability or talent in the world and people around me, it is gain.

I was encouraged and humbled by the war vet who told his story.  He took his lumps from those who have a political beef with war.  But he gained so much more by stepping out and sharing what he was compelled to share.  It’s likely many were blessed and encouraged like I was.

As I review my goals for the new year, at the forefront is the challenge to be bold…to just be the me I am without apology…to invest the talents I’ve been given in the world around me…to take my lumps and know I did what I was asked.

No fear.  Just do.