Thursday, December 31, 2015

And I Read... 2015



In January...

I turned 33.
I played way too much Candy Crush.
Haydn attended his first D-Now at church.
David had his best friend over to spend the night.
We packed meals for Stop Hunger Now.
We went ice skating with FUMC Tupelo.
Haydn went on Confirmation Retreat at Camp Lake Stephens.
Corey went to Honduras.

And I read...

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
*Wine from these Grapes by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Flight by Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Fall by Mercedes Lackey
Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles


In February...

I attended the community MLK Jr. celebration.
Leila and I met for lunch in Olive Branch.
I went to a spoken word workshop at the Lee County Library.
I performed at Asia Rainey's spoken word event.
It snowed.
I met Amena Brown at The Gathering in Jackson, MS.

And I read...

Orchards by Holly Thompson
Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Princess Bride by William Goldman


In March...

I went on a day-retreat with friends.
I mourned Sir Terry Pratchett's death.
My in-laws kept the kids over Spring Break.
I spent a few days in Brandon, at Leila's.
I deep cleaned the boys' bedrooms and the playroom.
Corey went on his last Going Till the Van Stops trip.
We visited Savannah in Montgomery and went to the Zoo.

And I read...

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Oblation: Meditations on St. Benedict's Rule by Rachel M. Srubas
**The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Unabrow by Una LaMarche
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
**Bossypants by Tina Fey
I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn
Acquainted with the Night by Paul Raeburn
Winds of Fate by Mercedes Lackey


In April...

I bought a fab green dress for Easter.
I participated in the Poem a Day challenge.
We went to the church picnic at Ballard Park.
I spent a ton of time "praying in color."
I used a lot of Stress Away oil on my wrists.

And I read...

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
**The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
**The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
*The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum
*Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
The BFG by Roald Dahl


In May...

Haydn was confirmed, and Corey got to confirm him.
Haydn got a math award and honor roll.
David won 6 awards at school and did a fun run with his best friend.
My friend, Janet, sent me a care package that included Unicorn Fart lip gloss.
There was a youth party to tell Corey goodbye.
I took Haydn to see Tomorrowland.
Rosemary took me to Memphis to see Kinky Boots.
My father-in-law picked up my oldest son for a summer in TN.

And I read...

**Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
**Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
**Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
A Field Guide to Happiness by Linda Leaming
You are Good at Things: a Checklist by Andy Selsberg
**Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
**The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
A Separate Peace by John Knowles


In June...

I won limbo on roller-skates.
David's best friend came over to celebrate his birthday.
I spontaneously decided to take David and go to Annual Conference.
I got bifocals.
David went to Vacation Bible School for the last time.
I got my first gel manicure.
I went to Honduras and helped build a house in memory of Natalie.
David spent a week at Camp Lake Stephens.

And I read...

**Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
**Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Eleanor &Park by Rainbow Rowell
**The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher


In July...

We moved to Olive Branch.
I locked my keys in my car in Georgia and sat at a gas station for hours.
I spent a week in SC.
Benjamin ran away and a couple found him and returned him.
I watched the battle flag come down while Mom taught me how to make rice pudding.
David went back to Tupelo to celebrate his best friend's birthday.
Izzie painted me a gorgeous poppy.
I took David to the Pink Palace museum in Memphis.
Lauren, Lynn, and I had a girls' night out.
Corey, David, and I went to Louisville, KY for a PATH1 conference.
We picked Haydn up on the way back to MS.

And I read...

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton
**Doll Bones by Holly Black
**My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
**Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman


In August...

The boys started 6th and 8th grade.
I started EMDR therapy.
Lauren and I picked paint for her office.
I colored a LOT.
I started Central American Spanish with Rosetta Stone.
Haydn had to get stitches in his head.

And I read...

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
**A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
Family on Mission by Mike Breen
Wearing God by Lauren F. Winner
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
**The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The Red House by Mark Haddon


In September...

We started our first Acts Bible Study at the parsonage on Sundays.
I listened to the Spanish version of "Oceans" by Hillsong a LOT.
David was an acolyte for the first time.
I had a tattoo consult and Lauren went with me.
I went to MidSouth Bookfest in Memphis.
I went to a writers conference.
Amy and Sapada came up to cookout and watch football.
I had some dental work done.
I went to Leila's for a weekend.

And I read...

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo
Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Mucha by Patrick Bade
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
**Partials by Dan Wells
Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde
The Clue of the Black Keys by Carolyn Keene
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
**The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm


In October...

Lauren and I took David and Ethan to a corn maze in TN.
David and Corey went to a Toby Mac concert.
I took a writing class through Iowa Writers Workshop.
I went with a group to see Carrie the Musical in Memphis.
We took the kids to Disney along with my best friend's family.
I started a 12 Steps series on Middle Places.
The boys went to their first school dance.
I started level 2 of Rosetta Stone.
We sold our house in Tupelo.

And I read...

Queen Zixi of Ix by L. Frank Baum
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Small Damages by Beth Kephart


In November...

I went to Words Matter in Memphis with Karen and Lisa Lynn.
I interviewed for a job I really wanted and didn't get.
I ran media when Corey spoke at Camp Lake Stephens.
Cheri sent me the coolest journal.
We visited the National Corvette Museum.
We went to Tennessee for Thanksgiving.

And I read...

Saving Wonder by Mary Knight
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
The Walking Dead: Compendium 1 by Robert Kirkman
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
*To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Allegiant by Veronica Roth


In December...

David had his first band concert.
We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.
Haydn worked really hard to do well on exams.
I got Corey orange highlighters for his birthday.
The Christmas parade went right past our driveway.
I finished drafting a new novel.
We made an offer on a house.
I had a poem accepted for publication in a lit journal.

And I read...

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
The Walking Dead Compendium 2 by Robert Kirkman
Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber
The Walking Dead Compendium 3 by Robert Kirkman
**Slam by Nick Hornby
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
Jesus Without Borders by Chad Gibbs
Mosquitoland by  David Arnold




TOTAL: 104

*reread
**audio book

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

10 books in 2015



I have the most trouble narrowing down over 100 books into a list of the top ten, or even the top twenty. So I'm not going to. Instead, I am going to pick ten books I have something to say about. Ten books that made me think or made me dream or made me angry even. I don't know. I haven't picked them yet as I'm writing this. I'm going to pick them as I go through my reading list for 2015.



Jesus Without Borders 

by Chad Gibbs

“What if living my entire life in the buckle of the Bible Belt had given me not only a narrow view of the world but also a narrow view of my faith?”

This title caught my eye on the library website and I borrowed it for Kindle. I spent Christmas reading it straight through, which is something I rarely do with nonfiction. The author is from Alabama and decided to explore Christianity in other cultures. What is it like to be a Christian growing up and living in China? Spain? Uganda? Australia? The result is a book that combines a few of my favorite things: interesting facts, travel stories, and broadening spiritual horizons. Travel always gives me new meat to chew when it comes to my faith. I cannot tell you how our Holy Land trip opened my eyes to realities about Israel and Palestine and made me dig deep into my opinions on the whole situation. I wish everyone could travel there and to other places around the world. I wish everyone had the chance to step outside of their own life and experience someone else's. Empathy. Empathy is what keeps us from being selfish and unloving. We need more of it.




Go Set a Watchman 

by Harper Lee

“[T]he time your friends need you is when they’re wrong, Jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right—”

I reread To Kill a Mockingbird over Thanksgiving so I could finally read this sequel.  Only it isn't a sequel, not in the truest sense of the word. It reads, to me, like the book Harper had to write to get to Mockingbird. Most of us writers do similar. The first book we put on paper is often thinly disguised autobiography. I am no exception. I have a manuscript from ten years ago that is based on a relationship from my own high school days. The story just poured out of me, and I mistook that urgency for good writing. I had to get it out, and now it's out, so I can go on to write better things. Go Set a Watchman feels like that, like Harper returned to Alabama and had all of these big emotions and opinions and ideas, and she had to get them out, but where? She didn't live in a time where she could blog all about it and find like-minded readers. 

This book made me think a lot. Since reading it, I find myself imagining my own return to the tiny town where I was born. I didn't grow up there, so it isn't exactly the same as Scout's experience, but I think my return would feel similar. I don't see myself as a "liberal" but standing next to 99% of the residents of my hometown would make me look like the biggest liberal to ever live. I love my hometown. I love Eastern Kentucky. It is a beautiful place, and I often long to be there. But I know my opinions and the way I approach my faith would make me stand out there in a way I don't here. And that's saying something, because I often feel different here in Mississippi as well. 




Wonder 

by R. J. Palacio

“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”

This book was on my to-read list for a long time. I heard nothing but good about it. This year, my youngest son had to read it for school, and he was obsessed with the story. It was the first time I saw him really fall in love with a book that wasn't Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the like, if you know what I mean. He was reading and thinking and exploring deep ideas. It was a truly beautiful thing to watch. Of course, that was the nudge I needed to finally read Wonder myself. I was instantly in love. I see why this book has captured so many hearts, and I wish I could make every child read it. Heck, I wish I could make every adult read it. Like I said above, empathy matters. When we build empathy, we build peace and love and understanding, and we need all of those things in spades. If you haven't read Wonder, read it. Buy it for your kids. Buy it for your grandkids and nieces and nephews.




Made You Up 

by Francesca Zappia

“Believing something existed and then finding out it didn't was like reaching the top of the stairs and thinking there was one more step.”

I have thought a lot about this book since finishing it. It was well-written and highly readable. I loved the characters. There was so much good in its pages. What kept me thinking about it, however, was the portrayal of "Schizophrenia." I have a friend with a child living with it, and there were so many details that did not ring true to me. Of course, every person's experience with a disorder or illness will be different. So I can't say for sure the experience portrayed in this book could never be accurate. I simply didn't know, so I did some Internet searching and found a psyche student who was asking similar questions. The student pointed out a lot of inaccuracies. Still, I don't know. I just don't know. I wish I could hear from some people living with Schizoaffective Disorder. What do they think of the portrayal of their struggles? 

Some of you are thinking, "It's just a book," and I get that. I write stories. I love that I can make things happen and change things to suit my purposes, because I'm the author. The problem is, when I'm using a real issue that real people are facing, I'm called to a certain level of respect and authenticity. Personally, I live with chronic depression, and if someone wants to write a character living with chronic depression, I want them to do a good job of it. Because what they write will affect how their readers think about chronic depression. That's what good fiction does. It builds empathy and understanding. I don't want people getting wrong information about my illness. 

The author of this book is a good writer with an awesome ability to tell a story and draw you in. I hope her book brings good things for people living with Schizoaffective Disorder. I'm glad I read this book. It gave me a lot of food for thought about my own writing and how I portray the issues facing my characters.




Searching for Sunday 

by Rachel Held Evans

“I am writing because sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties,”

I sobbed through most of this book. If any of you have followed my posts on Middle Places, you know I have been living in a sort of faith crisis this year. I have battled with my view of the Church, and I have felt a lot of anger and bitterness. If I weren't married to a pastor, I can't promise I would not have given up at some point. I'm glad that hasn't been an option for me, because the fruit of my continued wrestling match has been worth it. At the time I picked up this book, I was feeling very alone in my struggles. I wondered if I would ever get past them. Every other page had me crying, "me too" and, well, just crying. The right book at the right time can mean the world.




I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister 

by Amélie Sarn

"I don't want to be afraid of Majid or anyone else. I don't want to live in fear. I don't want my choices to be dictated by fear. I don't want to be what others have decided I should be. I want to be myself."

As I said, I think empathy is the key to peace in our world. One of my favorite things about fiction is how fiction can build empathy. When you read a book, you step inside someone else's story. You walk in their shoes and live their life for a while. This book allowed me to step into the world of a young Muslim girl living in a land not her own, surrounded by a culture that does not understand her. You will feel fear and sorrow and anger and remorse while reading this novel. It is beautifully written and well worth reading.




Orchards 

by Holly Thompson

"and moments when I have to pause / catch my breath / hold on to a branch / and not because I'm tired / or lost my balance / but because I'm seeing you, / Ruth, / alone / in Osgoods' orchard / setting down your pack / having chosen / your tree"

I picked up this book because one of my reading challenge categories was "A Book by an Author with my Initials." I might never have found this little gem otherwise, and I am glad I did. The book is written in verse, a format that intimidates me. As a poet, I feel like I should be able to write a novel in verse with my hands tied behind my back, but when I try, nothing comes. This one was beautiful, and the subject matter was hard but important. Bullying is a big topic right now, and this novel touches on a kind of bullying similar to what I experienced in middle school. It is often subtle but also direct and make the target feel so unworthy of breath... Well, you will just have to read it.




A Hat Full of Sky 

by Terry Pratchett

“There's always a story. It's all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything's got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”

This is the second in the Tiffany Aching set of books, considered to be young adult fiction. I happened to be reading this novel when Sir Terry passed away. My dad introduced me to Terry Pratchett  in middle school, when he handed me Mort and then Soul Music. Since then, I get in Pratchett moods and have been slowly picking my way through Discworld. He is my dad's favorite author, and I often joke that my dad is the American version of Sir Terry. Pratchett's death was a reminder that I cannot keep people forever. Stories end. Or, perhaps stories never end, but eventually you have to quit reading. You have to close the covers.




Love Letters to the Dead 

by Ava Dellaira

“But we aren't transparent. If we want someone to know us, we have to tell them stuff.”

I got this book for Christmas last year. I asked for it because my agent mentioned that something about the feel of my manuscript reminded him of Love Letters to the Dead. Of course, that made me anxious to read. My copy has one of those really soft covers that are comforting to pet. My husband finds it odd that I pet books, especially when I pet them in public. But, what can I say, books are like babies to me. Each one is someone's baby, and they deserve to be loved.

This one? I feel like all I should have to tell you is the first line: "Dear Curt Cobain." You know you want to read it now.




Say What You Will 

by Cammie McGovern

“There isn't any one big test or way to validate ourselves in the world. There's just a long, quiet process of finding our place in it”

Often, when a main character in a book has some sort of disability or illness or disorder, the whole story is about that one issue. What I loved about this book is that it wasn't about Amy having cerebral palsy. It was about Amy. It was about Amy falling in love and making mistakes and, you know, being a teenager. I don't want to say what mistakes she makes or what crazy things she does, because learning about that is part of enjoying the story. I listened to this on audio while packing for our move to Olive Branch, and it was very very good. I will pay attention to this author.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

2016: The Year of Daring



My word for 2015 was "Dream" You can read about that here, but the general explanation is that I thought the word was a noun, that 2015 would be a year about dreams. In a way, it was, but as I sit here at the end of December, I believe the word was always meant to be a verb.

It was a year when I learned to dream again.

It was a year of learning to let go of old dreams, to take my claws out and let them 
breathe, change shape, grow.

Sometimes, one theme flows naturally into another, and this is one of those times. 
My word for 2016 is "Daring."

Daring to dream?

Yes.

But also daring to act. Daring to try. Daring to ask. Daring to speak. Daring to believe.

I love having a theme for the year. It works as a lens. When things are hard, I hold up my lens and ask myself what lesson I am learning. I've been doing this for a decade now. Unlike the resolutions I used to make, my theme is never abandoned. 
It isn't something I can fail at.

It is a window or a mirror.

It is a shovel, a pencil, a paintbrush, a hammer.

It's whatever I need it to be, whatever tool is most useful at the time.

I have never once regretted asking God for a theme for the new year, even though some years it is hard hard hard and I wish my theme had been easier.

In 2005, I declared it my year of FREEDOM. It was a scary year of learning all of the ways in which I was not free and fighting against those chains. in 2006, my word was CONTENTMENT and I became very aware of the greed inside my soul. I had to face myself. 
2007 was PURPOSE AND VISION and mostly I learned what my purpose wasn't and that my vision for my own life was cloudy. 2008 was all about LAUGHTER AND POSSIBILITIES and it was a great year. It was also a hard year, but as we moved away from friends and the familiar, I was reminded to look for the possible. 2009 was PATIENCE, and I needed lots of it. 

2010 was TRUST, which followed PATIENCE well, because when your patience appears to not be paying off, you really have to trust. 2011 was PEACE and 2012 was my year of MARY

After Mary, it made sense that 2013 was my RED LETTER YEAR. I focused heavily on what Jesus actually called us to, the words he actually spoke. My faith was shifting in small ways, and I needed to hold onto the one thing I was sure of. 

Then, in 2014, my theme was OBLATION, and that almost shattered me. 
When you set out to pursue devotion, you learn where you are not devoted and you realize there are some aspects of the faith you once embraced blindly that you cannot be devoted to anymore.

And so it was time to DREAM again.

And now, it's time to be DARING.

I'm looking forward to 2016. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Excerpt from Thief of Lies!



Title: Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers, #1)
Release date: 1/5/16
Author: Brenda Drake

About the book:

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound. Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Check it out on Goodreads!


Purchase from any of these locations: Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Powell's, Books-A-Million, The Book Depository




Author Bio 

Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).



And now for the reason you are all here in the first place, an excerpt:




I pressed the screen, and it went dark.

“How do we know he’s not being forced to say this?”

“The password, May Agnes guide you,” Lei replied. “She’s the patron saint of Asile.” Agnes? That was the silver woman’s name that formed from my globe. Did the saints have something to do with the Chiavi?

I faced Ricardo. “How did you know I was here?”

“The werehounds tracked your scent from a shirt Katy…excuse me, your nana…gave us.”

“Can your pack help us save Couve?” Arik asked him.

“They will, but Gia must go with me.” He noticed the protest forming on my lips. “Merlin said no exceptions. I’m to get you to the shelter.”

From the corridor came yells, scuffles, and the continual wail of the warning siren.

“I can’t go with you,” I said. “I have to fight with them.”

“She can’t fight with us,” Lei said, glancing at the door. “She almost killed Kale.”

I turned to Sinead. “You know what I can do.”

Sinead gave me a pity smile. “Yes, but you have no control over it. Let Ricardo take you to your father and friends.”

I thought of Kale lying motionless, near death, and I hated that she was right. As much as I wanted to stay, I might be more hindrance than help. I caved. “Okay,” I said, defeated. Lei flew out of the room with the Laniars on her heels.

Sinead hugged me, then rushed after them. Arik moved over to me and cupped my face gently in his hands. His eyes held the intensity that always drew me to him.

I swallowed my breath in anticipation. All the sounds around us went silent.

He bent and lightly brushed my lips with a kiss. His lips were soft and oh, so tender. Butterflies swooped and curled inside me, and it felt like the ground disappeared from beneath my feet. He pulled back a little and said, “Regardless of the fact that you’re a royal pain in the arse, I fancy you. Listen to Ricardo and don’t do anything rash.”

He gave me another kiss and rushed out the door. My heart twisted in my chest as he disappeared. I touched my mouth and exhaled. He liked me. It was against the laws, but he told me he fancied me. Maybe we had no future, but we had now.

“What a sweet display,” Ricardo said, dragging me out of my haze. “I’m not one for rules or laws, but I’d be careful there. The punishment would be much worse for him than you.”

“Why?” I stared at the door as if I’d see Arik there.

“He’s a leader. He knows better.” Ricardo headed to the window. “Are you ready to fly?”

“Did you say fly?”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Big Things. Little Things. Heavy Things.



I don't blog here like I used to. I think I got too focused on every post being some publication-worthy essay that could change the world. But you know what I always loved about blogging? I loved coming here and spilling out all of the things on my heart and sometimes hearing a voice say, "me too."

I'm in an odd place lately. I'm not depressed. My meds are working fine. But I am weighed down. I am weighed down by big things out of my control, like the Syrian refugee crisis, all of the mass shootings, the things Christians do and say that make me think we read two very different Bibles and follow two very different men named Jesus...

I am weighed down by friends facing infertility when I would give anything to hand over my fertility. I always got pregnant so easily and had physically healthy pregnancies. I wish I could donate that. I don't need it anymore.

I am weighed down by my own dreams that seem to be flopping like dead fish but also inching towards coming true. It is possible for both of these images to be accurate.

I am weighed down by grocery shopping. I put it off until I have no choice and then I just want to be done and out of the store. It drives me a little crazy, how much I spend and how fast my kids eat it all and how I will be right back in there buying it all again.

I am weighed down by the books and shows I don't have time to read or watch.

I am weighed down by the things I see my kids struggle with, by all of the answers I have that they will have to learn on their own, and by all of the unknown days of their possible futures.

I am weighed down with the certainty that I don't do enough as a wife, daughter, sister, or friend.

I am weighed down by knowing I could be better with finances, could make a dollar stretch further and give more away, but numbers make me want to crawl under a desk and cry.

Big things. Little things.

Friends going through divorce, walking down the road of chronic illness, hearing they have cancer, losing someone they love...

Life feels hard.

This post makes it sound like I am depressed, even though I said I'm not. I promise, I really am not in a bad place that way. I feel joy. There are things I like to do and I am reading and spending time with friends and family. I am working and writing and doing housework and forcing myself to go to the grocery store and pick up my prescription. There are so many beautiful things in my life, and I am taking pleasure in them.

But another friend just shared her grief, and I just finished Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, and the combo led me here, to this blog, where I used to share all of the craziness in my life with abandon. And I miss that. I miss this outlet.

So I am spilling my guts to you. I am admitting that carrying all of this around is hard, some days harder than others.

And I've missed you my pretties. I've missed you and I will try to do better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Currently: the Name of that Moment



Current Books: I was sick over Thanksgiving, so I spent hours and hours curled up in a recliner at my in-laws' house, reading. I finished On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, and reread To Kill a Mockingbird (something I planned to do all year) and then read Allegiant by my agency sister, Veronica Roth (not name dropping, because Veronica has no clue who I am). Now I am reading Go Set a Watchman despite mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Current Playlist: Pretty silent lately. We listened to some comedy on Pandora on the drive home from Tennessee.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I can't really think of anything right now. Last week, I would have said pie for breakfast, but there's no pie in my house. If someone would bring me a pecan pie, I could eat that for breakfast and then I'd have something to write here. Well, now that I think about it, I did have Reese's minis for breakfast today.

Current Color: Kentucky blue

Current Food: My mother-in-law outdid herself this year. And my brother-in-law and sister-in-law smoked a to-die-for turkey. I'm not usually a fan of turkey, but this stuff was amazing. The only downside of someone else doing Thanksgiving this year? No leftovers in my fridge.

Current Drink: Coffee. I need to get to Starbucks for an apple chai. That sounds good right now.

Current Favorite Favorite: Corey. Today is our 14th wedding anniversary. I can't imagine being married to anyone else.

Current Wishlist: a bunch of books, as always... Big Magic, Accidental Saints, Furiously Happy, and Wink Poppy Midnight

Current Needs: I need to put butt in chair and finish writing this manuscript. I have written and rewritten 14 chapters and the second half is overwhelming me.

Current Triumph: I had an essay published by Venn Magazine. I've wanted to write something for them for a few years now.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: my own self-doubt

Current Indulgence: Corey got up with the boys this morning, so I slept until almost 9 AM.

Current Mood: Pretty good, despite feeling icky with the sinus gunk

Current Outfit: Dark jeans, a grey cowl neck sweatshirt, black suede boots

Current #1 Blessing: 14 years with the man I love, corny and cheesy as that may be

Current Quote: “I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.” ― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

Current Photo:
Selfie with my sis at Thanksgiving

Title taken from: “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.” ― Frederick Buechner




Monday, November 9, 2015

Stained Glass Prayers

I don't share fiction here often, but I am taking a class through Iowa Writers Workshop, and I am really enjoying the exercises.  Here is the piece I wrote for Lesson 6 (Immersion in Setting).



God, I miss her. It's only been a few days. I haven't decided where to spread her ashes or if maybe I should just keep them. I haven't thought about a memorial service, because no one but me gave Mom the time of day. She lived in her tiny old house, sleeping one door away from my son and two doors away from me. I moved in with her when my husband left. She's the only person who never did leave me. Even Sam, at five-years-old, packs his little suitcase every other weekend and drives away with his father.

"Susan?"

Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

“Susan, I know you’re in there.”

The downside of husbands knowing everything about you is now my ex-husband knows everything about me, including where I go when I need to think.

“I’m not coming out, Rick. Move on.” I watch the doorknob at the foot of the stairs. It won’t matter if he touches it. It’s locked.

“Come on, babe. Let me in. I know you’re hurting.”

I close my eyes and curl my fingers into the red shag carpet. Colors dance across my eyelids. Stained glass images of Jesus are burned there from the windows lining the wall above my head.

"I dropped Sam off at my mother’s,” Rick says. “She can keep him all weekend if you need some time to regroup.”

“I don’t need to regroup,” I practically shout. “I haven’t effing grouped in the first place.”

He tries the knob. I open my eyes and watch the metal glitter in light from the stained glass. The white door is covered in red triangles and blue curves to match the waves Jesus walked on. The gold of the knob reflects a halo.

I’ve come here since I was a kid, since back when it was still our church and my youth pastor had an office underneath this staircase. He gave me a key. I never gave it back.

“How do you stand it in there?” Rick asks.

I’m normally claustrophobic, and this stairwell is little more than a closet, but the dark walls feel more like a womb than a tomb, and the red carpet is soft as the quilt at home on Mom’s bed. It smells musty with a hundred years of prayers, like they’ve soaked into the wood and glass and metal all around me.

I run one finger down a crack in the wall. It’s been there for ages now, but it’s gotten longer. The church should have their foundation checked. I should’ve had my foundation checked. Maybe, if I’d noticed the cracks like this one when they first started forming, my ex-husband wouldn’t be on the other side of the door, because he’d be at home with me, in my bed, still my husband, holding me through this hard time.

And maybe I would’ve seen how the cancer was spreading. I could have taken Mom in sooner. I could have insisted she see a new doctor, tried a new drug, prayed a hundred years of stained glass prayers right here with me.

“I’m not going anywhere, Susan.” Rick’s voice is so soft it barely carries through the wood. It nestles in the carpet beside me, and my throat swells.

“Go away,” I whisper, but my own voice is hoarse. It tumbles from my lips to my chest and lodges there. Rick can’t hear me. Mom can’t hear me. Nobody can hear me anymore.

The colors shimmer on the door and disappear. My head snaps back and I get to my feet. High above me, the stained glass has gone dark. The shining face of Jesus doesn’t glitter anymore. Now his eyes are angry slashes across brown skin. Behind him, storm clouds gather on this Alabama afternoon. Lightning flashes. For a moment, I can’t remember if this is real or not. Am I in a church or on the Sea of Galilee?

The doorknob turns again. This time it opens.

“Rick?” I look down, but it’s not my ex standing on the stairs. It’s a man with a ponytail. He wears a tan jumpsuit and carries a large cross. “Jesus?”

“No, name’s Bill,” the man says.

“Susan,” Rick appears behind Bill.

I feel weak and put a hand on the wall. The crack bites into my flesh, and I wince.

“If I could just squeeze past you, ma’am.” Bill takes a step toward me. “I have to get this crucifix up to the attic.” He’s a janitor. Or a maintenance man. What do they call them now? I can’t remember.

“I’ve got her,” Rick reaches around Bill and puts a hand on my shoulder. He moves me to one side and Bill walks past, the foot of the cross dragging on the carpet, Jesus’s tattered body floating by me. I take my hand off the wall and put it on his wooden skin. Then Bill is gone, the cross is gone, Jesus is gone, and the thunder outside shakes the building.

“There’s a storm coming, babe. Let’s get you home before it hits.”

I sink to my knees and lean my head against Rick’s thighs. “I don’t have a home anymore.”

“What? Of course you do.” Rick kneels beside me, pulling me to his chest. “I saw the will. Your mother left you the house and her car and, well, everything.”

I shake my head. There’s a broken communion wafer on the ground, and it cuts into my knee, but I don’t shift my weight. I don’t move at all.

“The house doesn’t matter,” I sob. “Mom… Mom was my home.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Step by Step on Middle Places



I have to admit, before last week, I didn’t know what steps came after admitting you have a problem. For as long as I can remember, I have said and heard other people say things like, “Well, at least you admit that is a problem. That’s the first step.”

So last week, I shared about that on Middle Places and I went ahead and looked up the 12 Steps online. I shared the second step in that same blog post. And then I closed that window on my computer. Yesterday, I sat down with my laptop, trying to decide what to blog about this week, and I realized I should probably check out the remaining steps. After all, if I told you all about taking step one and step two, it wouldn’t hurt to share a bit about the rest of the steps, right?

It turns out, I have been inadvertently continuing my personal spiritual 12 Step program without even knowing the steps. Although, I may have steps three and four reversed in practice.

Continue reading on Middle Places

Monday, October 26, 2015

Confession on Middle Places



I sat in the early service Sunday morning and I felt good. My usual defensive posture wasn’t entirely gone, but it felt distant. The liturgical reading for World Communion was taken from a poem, and I loved the words. Even my son’s teenage I-Don’t-Want-To-Be-Here slouch felt normal.

As I wrote in my journal and listened to my husband preach, I realized this makes two Sundays in a row that I have felt safe in church. Granted, both of these Sundays involved my husband giving the sermon, but they were at two different churches. The first one was a little country church that felt so much like home. I couldn’t help but relax there. Every hymn was familiar, lyrics I grew up singing from the pages of a red Baptist hymnal.

I don’t think the hymns or the location or even my husband made the biggest difference though.

I think the change began with confession.

Click here to continue reading on Middle Places

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Safe Place on Middle Places


Today, I sat in my therapist’s office and talked about my grandmother’s house. I am starting EMDR therapy, and that means I will be going backwards in time. I will be revisiting the scenarios that have left me a big ball of anxiety this year. While doing this, my therapist wants me to have a “safe place” to land inside my brain, a mental place I can visit when I need to regroup.
As soon as she said, “safe place,” I pictured Grandma’s house.
It’s not that nothing bad ever happened there. I cannot tell you the nights I spent afraid of ghosts and spirits living in the walls. And, lawdy, my cousin Richard found all sorts of ways to torment me. Threatening to lock me in the cellar and feed me possum stew were his favorite “jokes.”
It’s not about the absence of stressful events. It’s about being a kid and being 100% myself.
I didn’t fit in at school. I got made fun of for having the wrong clothes, crooked teeth, greasy hair, etc… The boys I liked never liked me back. Friendship was often a minefield in elementary and middle school. I was also living with undiagnosed ADHD. I was disorganized, always in trouble for not keeping my bedroom clean enough, always losing papers or turning in messy assignments.
But not at Grandma’s house.
Continue reading on MIDDLE PLACES.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Currently: Now for October Eves

Current Books: I am about halfway through Small Damages by Beth Kephart. I also have a book of short stories open near my chair. I read a story between novels. I recently finished Wonder and More Happy Than Not. Both were amazing books.

Current Playlist: I'm still listening to Oceans (Donde Mis Pies Pueden Fallar) a lot. Other than that, I have been catching up on Writing Excuses and the Happier podcast.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: On Sunday, I watched the first 10 episodes of The Fosters on Netflix.

Current Color: Poppy red

Current Food: I just bought candy corn and peanuts.

Current Drink: Coffee with caramel-vanilla creamer.

Current Favorite Favorite: Encouraging feedback on my first writing assignment for a class I am taking.

Current Wishlist: Our Disney trip to go well.

Current Needs: Self-discipline when it comes to getting my tasks completed efficiently. I need to de-clutter my office and set up a writing area where I can concentrate and get some work done. I have a lot of it to do.

Current Triumph: I handled a crisis with my oldest while Corey was out of town without losing my composure.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: My own self-doubt and fear. Also, middle school math.

Current Indulgence: Eating out way too often.

Current Mood: Mostly good, tense from time to time.

Current Outfit: Jeans and a CLS t-shirt, Chucks, banned books bracelet, bright blue socks

Current #1 Blessing: Our Disney trip is paid for. Dining reservations are made. Hotel room is booked. Park days are scheduled. My best friend and her family will be there with us.

Current Quote: “Doubt is unsettling to the ego, and those who are drawn to ideologies that promise the dispelling of doubt by proffering certainties will never grow. In seeking certainty they are courting the death of the soul, whose nature is forever churning possibility, forever seeking the larger, forever riding the melting edge of certainty’s glacier.” ― James Hollis

Current Photo:
Ready to head to Memphis for Carrie: The Musical



Title taken from:“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves, We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” ― Humbert Wolfe

Writing to Understand Myself on Middle Places


I don’t regroup quickly.
Take this move, for instance. Even when it was clear to both my husband and myself that he had finished his time as a youth minister, I could not wrap my head around leaving the church we were serving. Slowly, God walked me into acceptance and then I was able to fully embrace the new path.
The key word there is “slowly.”
And, I admit, slow is relative. More than speed, my regrouping requires solitude. I don’t think clearly when someone is standing there waiting for me to think. I hate being asked, “Where should we have lunch?” I don’t know. If you had asked me yesterday and given me a day to think it over and research restaurants, maybe I would have a suggestion. But now you are waiting on me to decide and my brain has shut down.
If I struggle that much deciding on a place to eat, you can just imagine me working through big things like naming my children, picking which literary agent to sign with, choosing whether or not to homeschool, and figuring out my stance on controversial issues currently in the news.

Continue reading on MIDDLE PLACES

Monday, October 5, 2015

Alone on Middle Places



Sometimes I don’t believe in God.

It’s not often, but there are moments when I step outside of myself and shake my head. I don’t get it. How can any of this be true?

But then I reconnect.

Sometimes, the reconnection is strong and I am bowled over by God’s presence. How did I ever doubt?

Sometimes, the reconnection is loose, and my grip remains uncertain. Am I sure? Was that God or just coincidence? Did I hear the Divine’s voice or my own?

Continue reading this post on MIDDLE PLACES

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