Monday, February 27, 2012

Update on the Lenten Walks

I'm almost a week into Lent and the daily walks are just what the doctor (or priest, as the case may be) ordered. On two different days, my outside walks were mere walks around the block but they weren't any less helpful than the two days I took a legitimate hike in the woods. (Well, I was as close as a girl can get to the "woods" in North Austin.)

I find myself craving the walks and looking at my calendar for an extra 15 minutes so that I can escape into nature (even if nature inlcudes a sidewalk and construction noise). Some days, like today, it's exceptionally difficult to find that time before the sun sets... but so far I've kept my commitment.

Yesterday, I suddenly found myself very blue for no reason at all. It washed over me and tried to drag me down. All of a sudden I proclaimed: "I'm going out for a walk." I walked a different path than the one I usually take in my neighborhood and could actually hear inner-Jenn coaching me and asking me what I wanted from life. By the time I arrived home, I'd found peace and even a little clarity about my goals.

None of this can be solved overnight. I've spent years overburdening myself with activities and adventures meant to serve as distractions to my true purpose. Now that I have very little time to pursue my true purpose, I'm frustrated and drained of energy.

And yet, I am certain that by placing one foot in front of the other, I will arrive at my goal. My job during these walks is to breathe, listen, and "be still" as the Psalmist advised - so that I will know the Truth.

Psalm 46:10

Monday, February 20, 2012

Deep Dark Funk and the Lenten Cure

I've been teetering on the edge of a deep, dark funk for a few weeks now. I'm discouraged about my novel, I'm bummed about my "career," and when I looked for a date evening with my husband I had to put it on the calendar two weeks in the future because of our insane schedule. These DDFs do arise, of course, and they are (mercifully) transitory phenomenon. I remind myself of this very Buddhist fact every day (all is transitory), but it's not helping me much.

I feel very called to observe Lent this season, and I want to feel better. I started wondering what I should do. Write everyday? Hmmm. No - hopefully I'll do that anyway but that's not supposed to be my Lenten observance.

Give up meat? No - I'll avoid it as much as I can but I don't think that's supposed to be my observance either.

My boss forbade me from ever trying to give up caffeine again after I did it years ago and was walking into walls and going home early with a migraine every day. She has a point. Caffeine stays in my life during Lent.

As I was driving home for lunch it dawned on me that this year for Lent, I'm called to walk outside every single day. (This could be tricky if the rain keeps coming, but I'm not made of sugar. I won't melt.) I need to clear my mind, reconnect with God, and listen to guidance about my career and my novel.

And who says this has to start on Ash Wednesday? I'll start this afternoon. No time like the present to pull myself out of a DDF.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coolest Daughter

Yesterday was a very long day. As luck would have it, I chose to wear heels and didn't even make it home for more than a few minutes until 8 p.m. As I was standing in my kitchen, I looked down at the counter and saw this pin.

It took my breath away. I could tell my daughter was the one who wrote my name. As it turns out, she found the button on the school bus and filled in my name.


As I told her, this is absolutely the best thing anyone has ever done for me in my entire life.

My husband smiled and teased her: "Thanks for setting the bar so high for the rest of us!"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love Is... A Great Beta Reader

Before you read the hilarious poem below, you should know that I'm not the author. Kristen Lamb is and you can find her blog here.  I've haunted her blog for a while now because I'm about halfway through her book. Fair warning to my six faithful readers: once I'm finished with Kristen's book, I'm quite sure I'll be revamping my blog. In the meantime, however, enjoy her poem. I'll add my own Valentine's Day thoughts at the end of this post. As with everything else in my life right now, they orbit around my novel.

Twas the Night Before Valentines…by Kristen Lamb
Twas the night before Valentines, and all through the land
The poor single people were wringing their hands
Handcuffs were hung by the nighties with care
Near the lotions and chocolates and mint underwear.
A day made by Hallmark to sell lots of stuff
Pushing candies and kittens and kisses and fluff
A day that makes “Single” a social disease
Like bubonic or typhoid or chiggers or fleas
And that fat baby Cupid must be on the take
Paid in buckets of cash and red velvet cake.
Love songs are played on every damn station
As “mush” takes over our entire nation.
Now not that we’re jaded, us single-type folk
We’ve tried Facebook and Match, and Equally-Yoked
We’ve tried parks and clubs and churches and bars
And a handful resorted to wishing on stars.
Like most other people, we want company
Without drama or fighting or disharmony.
No Jerry Springer or Kardashian drama
We have no time for all of that trauma.
Maybe we’re picky, world-weary, or fussy
Because we won’t date any Joe Schmo or hussy.
We want someone good-looking, gentle and sweet.
Hey, just cuz we’re single doesn’t make us minced meat.
We don’t begrudge the romance of others
The passion of courtship, the heat between lovers.
Before you judge my singular state
Think back to the days when YOU had to date.
Tomorrow we’ll stand in the grocery store line
Behind the husband with a bottle of wine
And a “Get-Well” bouquet cuz he waited too late
To find the red roses to give to his mate.
Hallmark has trained you to scurry and dash
Into its stores with fistfuls of cash.
For stuffed little critters with a lap full of love
And boxes of chocolate morsels from Dove.
Singles won’t stand hours waiting to dine
On elf food with garnish and overpriced wine.
No chocolates with abnormal tropical middles
Or angst about thighs that may wiggle and jiggle.
No staying in bars desperately late
Trying to connect with a last-minute date.
So embrace your status and shout it out loud.
Yes, I am single! Single and Proud!

This poem cracked me up. I related to it, even though I barely remember being single. (You see, V-Day is a notorious disappointment, regardless of your relationship status.) The great thing about my small cadre of blog-readers is that most of you know the "real Jenn." You know I've been with the same guy since I was 18 years old (and I'm no spring chicken). You know I have a busy life, two kids, and if you know me VERY well, you know that by the time my husband I finally have five consecutive minutes together at the end of the day, we are so brain-dead that we can't remember what we wanted to tell each other earlier in the day. In other words, we are a very normal 40-ish married couple.

David, like most other American men, is not overly emotive (think Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy). He's surprisingly good at crafting touching handwritten additions to Hallmark cards, he remembers Valentine's Day and he sometimes even brings me flowers. It is only in the last month, however, that my husband has stolen my heart in a whole new way.

David is my beta reader. As any author knows, that is an incredible gift. I'm only on the first edit of my NaNoWriMo novel, so there are plenty of holes and rabbit trails that require attention. Once I realized I needed some serious plot advice, I asked for his help. (He seemed surprised and honored by my request.) The truly amazing thing is that he really likes the book. He's into the story, attached to the characters (I heard him gasp when one died), and completely believes in my ability to go far as an author.

Don't get me wrong...I love flowers and romance as much as the next girl, but the best gift I've ever received is summed up in the acknowledgment of my fledgling novel: "To David: who believed in me for decades before I finally believed in myself."

Monday, February 6, 2012

How I Organized My Writing

When I wrote about my need for order ,which exists in a miserably unhappy marriage with my complete aversion to order, I ended that post with a declaration that I must organize my writing. At the time I posted said declaration, I believed my real problem stemmed from the fact that I lacked a physical space, organized "just so."

I've come to realize that isn't really the issue and I believe I've found the solution. Having a good space for writing is a lovely idea. The sad truth, however, is that I could have a fabulous space full of sunlight, flowers and inspiring music but it would last me two weeks at most. Boredom with physical space sets upon me quickly - it's always lurking in the background, ready to ruin a perfectly nice room.

At the end of January, someone in my local NaNoWriMo group asked if anyone would like to do a mini-WriMo. She indicated she wanted to continue working on her novel and a lightbulb went off in my mind. I committed to writing/editing every single day during February. So far, so good. Some days I'm only editing a few pages, but until I sit down and get to work for the day it's nagging at the back of my mind. I breathe easier and smile more now that I'm working with my words again.

It turns out that what I really needed was the HABIT of working on my novel each day, not a particular physical setting. When it gets right down to it, that's better in the long run because I crave this work all the time, even if I'm not near one of my two or three typical writing spaces. It's a form of organization, but it's loose. I'm following a simple rule: open my novel and work each day. By refusing to set other limits on myself (insisting on a certain number of pages or minutes each day), I have absolutely no excuse for failing to follow this system. If I have 10 minutes, I can work. So that's exactly what I do.

Well, that and tell my friends about it on my blog so you guys will hold me accountable.

So I do exactly that.