How much meat are you leaving on the bones? It’s time to stop wasting our moments.

Picture it with me (my guess is your version looks awfully similar to this–just alter and delete a few things and presto! My day becomes your own!):

sleep-woman-tired-needs-coffee-half-asleep-dreamstime_m_79917322-2I wake up, stumble out of bed, head straight to the coffee pot and stumble around my kitchen until I finally get a cup of that black brew in my hand. I quickly suck down some of that black nectar and stumble over to my favorite chair where I sit comatose and blinking until the black goo starts to work its magic. Somehow, that process takes far longer than it should (and far longer than it feels like–I swear there is a kind of time warp we get stuck in in the morning–ten minutes becoming a half an hour, twenty minutes becoming 50) and so I have to rush to get ready and then race to work–a couple of minutes behind schedule, of course, pulling into the parking lot with a squeal of tires and a cloud of dust and gravel in my wake (okay, so not really, but that’s what it feels like).

I get to work and, despite the fact that I do like my job, I start counting the moments until I get to go home and veg. in front of Netflix watching whatever tv series currently offers my dose of escapism (currently the DC comics–who doesn’t love a good hero?). In the meantime, I fight to cram bits of learning into unwilling minds, and battle the mindset of this entitled generation which seems to think that because they suck air they deserve the right to pass my class. Finally, the anticipated moment arrives: the bell rings, and I haul my disillusioned and exhausted self out of there and I try to put the chaos and the stress of the day behind me. Ironic that, with the current state of driving, which often only increases my stress level due to the idiocy of the modern, cell phone distracted driver…so I arrive home feeling more stressed than when I left.

Finally I get home and steal those few minutes of escapism that I have spent the whole day longing for, those few minutes of alone time in the midst of the chaos of living, and I escape from my world until I begin to feel at least marginally human again, at which point I then snuggle with my littles and chat about their days.

Being that hunger seems to hold my growing children in its grip, the “I’m hungrys” cannot be long put off before I have to forfeit my brief reprieve and cook dinner. Well, then of course, I have to clean up from that dinner I just provided. Typically, as I am still finishing this odious task, my big little dude starts pestering for our one on one time: it’s time to take a walk with that biggun and to talk about the things on his mind (usually video games, or weird bits of knowledge, or girls these days–fun times!).

clockBy the time we get back, all I want to do is crawl into my bed and sleep, but I typically force myself to work another hour or two instead. Then of course, I need to reward myself, so I watch another episode or two of my latest binge watch, and thus fall asleep much too late, which means not enough sleep, and then, of course, someone hits repeat and, much like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, I get up to do the same thing all over again the next day…

Life in the modern world.

Insert a different TV show, change the order, maybe insert takeout for making dinner, make a few other minor adjustments and poof! You have your routine instead of mine. The narrative itself changes little.

When I was young, the treadmill of life as I like to call it, seemed unthinkable. I would never get on that treadmill. Life was meant to be lived, experienced, appreciated…not be lived on repeat.

So how in the world did I end up on the treadmill along with just about everyone else?

Psychologists would likely jump to the fact that we love patterns and routines us human beings. We’re creatures of habit. It seems to be hardwired.

But I believe that’s only part of it.

busy-momI believe the truth is that we are just too darn busy to live any other way, and that we have lost the art of solitude which prevents us from knowing any better.

Solitude? What in the world does solitude have to do with the treadmill of life?

An awful lot actually.

As I’ve been getting ready to teach Romanticism, I’ve found myself re-reading Thoreau for the first time in many, many years, and I find myself rediscovering why I loved him so much the first time around.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Once again I find those words resonating with me. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks pondering them and thinking about what they mean to me in this modern life.

My pondering led me on a journey of sorts. I started thinking about everything I should do: places I wanted to go, things I wanted to experience, goals I have yet to achieve.

But as I pondered these things, I found that just the thought of them made me tired. A part of me seemed to whimper at the thought of so much doing.

Yes, I want them, and yes, I plan to climb those mountains and dive deep into those seas, but something inside of me waived its arms in protest, dissenting at the thought of still more doing.

Adventures should be exciting and exhilarating. They should fill me with anticipation. And yet, though a part of me undeniably wants these things, a part of me feels the weight of burden at the mere thought of achieving them…something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and I was determined to figure out exactly what it was.

So I pondered some more, and the pondering lead me to that word “deliberately.”

What does it mean to live “deliberately?”

When you look at the meaning of the word, it seems pretty obvious. It is more than just filling our moments. It is a great deal more than simply doing.

find-arrowheads-in-the-woodsIt’s going to the woods as Thoreau put it. It’s pulling away, and pulling inside. It’s finding the solitude to reflect on the moments so that we can get all the meat from the bones, so that we can suck the marrow from the moments.

In our society, we forget that solitude and reflection are a necessary part of living to the fullest.

We’ve all felt it–that itchy feeling when we have an empty moment. That urge to grab our cell phone and hop onto social media or text a friend. The urge to fill the silence with music.

When I was a girl I was so good with silence. As an adult, I too often fill my silence with noise.

When I listen to the inner voice I realize that, for me, living deliberately is less about the doing and more about honoring the silence.

solitude (1)Living deliberately is much more about appreciating the small moments than it is filling up our lives with big ones. I want the big ones. I crave adventures–but I’m starving for solitude.

It’s the difference between want I want and what I need. But I’ve been too busy to even notice, or at least acknowledge, that I need it.

What about you? When you look inside, when you dig deep, is it really what you’re not doing that leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled?

Or, if you’re honest, is it more about the fact that you’ve lost yourself, that you’ve become so busy and your life so filled with noise that you don’t take the time to suck the marrow from the bones of life? That you don’t take the time to realize what you already have, or the things that need to change, or the people you need to connect with or…well the list goes on and is different for each one of us.

Scale back. Unplug. Spend some time reconnecting with yourself.

It’s what I’m going to do. It’s what you should do. We owe it to ourselves.

Live deliberately–not more. That is what it is all about.

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I Dare you to Fail–it might be the best thing you ever do!

mean-old-ladyI had the worst first grade teacher ever. She was a cranky old bitty who thought I was stupid, who broke all my pencils, and who threw my shoes in the garbage. I hated her.

But I owe her a huge thank you.

She was my introduction to difficulty. She was my very early initiation into the practice of not perseverance, but of overcoming.

I could have accepted her early analysis of my intellectual capabilities. I could have started the inner monologue of my incompetence, my inability, and my general suckiness, but instead, despite my immature, impressionable six year-old mind, I made impossiblemy very first decision to overcome, to confront her analysis head on, and to prove her wrong.

That was the first time I confronted an obstacle, and I believe it set the precedent for how I would handle all the obstacles to come.

Where did my courage to deal with the difficulties that have come my way over the last several decades come from?

I believe that it came from that very first experience with her. She had told me I couldn’t. She had told me I was dumb. She had labeled me and written me off. But I didn’t accept that, and by third grade I proudly walked the long hall to her room to hold my report card full of A’s to her startled face.

Dadgummit! I had done it! I had proven her wrong, and if I’d proven her wrong, why couldn’t I overcome the next obstacle, and the next one?

I had overcome, and that overcoming gave me faith that I could do it again.

Because of her, from the very beginning, I was only too aware of my imperfections. I never labored under the false perception of perfection, so when I screwed up, as I inevitably did time and again, it was not the end of my world. I did not label myself as a failure, but instead, I recognized that I could do better, be better.

failure-and-successI was very aware of my ability to change and to grow, because I had proven that ability from the tender age of six. I had proven to myself that I could be better tomorrow than I was today. I never thought I was perfect, but I knew that with effort, with tenacity, I could be more than who I was currently.

If I had stepped out of the gate with straight A’s, if it had come easy to me from the very beginning, if I hadn’t had the very early lessons in difficulty, would I have had the courage to confront obstacles instead of just avoiding them? Would I have been scared to risk failure and take chances if I wasn’t thrust into it so early on?

According to Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: the new Psychology of success” I very well might not have. How we deal with failure early on, predicts how we are likely to deal with it our entire lives–unless me mindfully make a decision to deal with it differently.

If, when we are confronted with difficulty, we choose to overcome it, we will keep daring, keep risking, keep pushing our limits to see what we are capable of doing.

If, when confronted with difficulty, we back away, and stay in our comfort zone of what we know we do well, in our zone of tried and true success, we are likely to never find the true potential of what we could do.

failureAnd it all starts when we’re just little peanuts. If we allow our failings to be an impetus for growth, rather than a label of who we are–a failure–we can become so much more.

It is that very willingness to confront the obstacle that I learned way back then that keeps me blogging. I have blogged for years, and yet my following consists mainly of my mother, a couple of loyal family members, and a handful of faithful friends. Logic says that I should have given this up long before now, but am I going to quit? Nope. I’m going to keep doing it, becoming better, working out the kinks, until one day, I firmly believe, someone (hopefully lots of someones–and this isn’t to say I don’t appreciate you, my faithful few!) is going to notice.

And my novel. I know it’s going to get rejected. Probably many times. Is that going to stop me from writing it, or from sending it out to the inundated world of agents and publishers?

The-best-success-stories-often-begin-with-failure_-8x10Absolutely not. It didn’t stop Stephen King and it didn’t stop J.K. Rowling, and it’s not going to stop me. I will keep working on it, tweaking it, taking the advice and suggestions I am given, until finally, one day, someone says, “Yes. I’m going to take a chance on you.”

Sometimes, this mountain I’m trying to climb seems insurmountable, and I am tempted to throw in the towel, but I just can’t do that.

Thank you, Kelly, for the nudge I needed through the book “Mindset” you sent my way, and thank you Chris, for the nudge you gave me with the book “Daring Greatly.” It is a good reminder to keep going, keep trying, and keep believing, that by daring to put myself out there, I am doing something worthwhile.

And thank you Cassandra for telling me you “want to be [me] when you grow up.” You say that to me now, not as a published author, but as one who is daring to try to become one. It reminds me that it’s not the success I achieve, but the willingness to dare to achieve it that is truly admirable.

So, if it’s the willingness to try that sets us apart, what is it that you need to be willing to risk? What is it that you need to dare to do? Aren’t you curious of just how much you can achieve?

Daring to risk and failing, does not make you a failure. It makes you courageous. I dare you to dare with me.

When life is speeding by too quickly, what should you do? Why shop, of course!

Unlike most people who take stock of their year at the end of the calendar year, I tend to take mine at the end of the school year, being that I’m a teacher and all. I’ve found myself spending a lot of time thinking about this year, and I have to admit, my thoughts have been very bitter sweet. It has been a year of firsts, and a year of feeling myself on the brink of a new chapter and new beginnings.

During the school year, I am too busy to really think about things, but in the summer, I am able to give free rein to my reflective nature and I have felt the movement of time like a train headed straight for me, and I feel that most when I look at my nine year old daughter Arabelle.

gavinGavin is older; he turned eleven in May, so maybe he should be the one who makes me feel the movement toward change most, but somehow the changes with him seem more subtle. Yes, he’s up to my chin, and yes, he had his first real crush this year, but other than height, there have been no physical changes. He’s matured (thank God), and I know there’s more coming, but, well, somehow either the changes aren’t big enough, or maybe because I’ve been anticipating them, it hasn’t had the emotional impact that the changes in Arabelle have had on me.

strawberry shortcakeArabelle is nine. Did you catch that? Only nine. She has always been my sweetest child, honestly, the sweetest child I have ever met. She always makes me think of Beth in “Little Women.” I have also called her my Strawberry Shortcake. That was just the kind of kid she has always been. She will give her little sister the last cookie. She will look out for the outcast. When she was about three and I had two cookies, with one significantly bigger than the other, Gavin quickly grabbed the large one, and not only did Belle not make a big deal about getting the smaller cookie, she looked at her cookie and said, “Oh, look at my cookie, the cutie, cutie little cookie.” That’s my Arabelle.

adolescentThis year Arabelle has started rolling her eyes at me…and slamming doors…and shooting me this look that says, “Mom, how can you be so stupid?!” She’s happy one minute, and bursting into tears the next. She ignores me, and outright disobeys (not a lot, but that she’s doing it at all…). My sweet girl is changing.

Not all the change is bad. She’s a lot of fun to hang around with. She always has a book or a notebook with her because her brain is always thinking about things, whether it be God, life, philosophy or her next story idea. She’s funny. And she still is sweet, just more of a grown up sort of sweet.

These things have been going on all year, but I still looked at my daughter and saw a little girl–at least for a while longer–but I heard the clock ticking, almost physically sometimes. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. It’s just a matter of time.

Excited Shopping Woman isolated on white

To deal with the advancement of time and this whirlwind of change, I have done what every mother would do (well, at least that’s what I tell myself), I shop.

Shopping, much to my husband’s dismay, has always been one of my coping mechanisms, and since I love fashion, there’s always so much shopping potential.

Though I love women’s fashion, the 30+ pounds that my children left me (thanks so much kiddos) and my own lack of willpower have kept me from vanquishing (thank you all you cupcake specialty stores and the new Krispy Kreme that is less than 10 minutes away!) the poundage and thus keep me from dabbling too much in that industry. My layers of pudge and my big kahunas often make the trends look quite ridiculous on me. So what is a girl to do?

paper-doll-costumeWhy, but what are children but big dollies that I can play with and dress up! 😉 Problem solved!

I never went through a doll stage or a Barbie stage as a kid. I was more into painting and drawing, reading and writing, so my children have brought out the latent urges that I bypassed in my youth. My husband says I’m making up for lost time. I personally call it therapy. I can’t shop the trends for myself, but I have these two skinny, beautiful daughters who look good in everything (even those full body rompers–they may be two of the only people anywhere to pull those off), so, when I need shopping therapy, it tends to benefit their wardrobes, not my own.

When they were younger, I went through a Gymboree stage (doesn’t everyone?), but as they got older, I shifted to a Gap stage–less cutsie. But then I started to explore boutique brands, and there is just some of the cutest stuff ever out there! I crossed over into dangerous territory!

So, as Arabelle enters the last stage of her childhood (as signified by the necessity to go training bra shopping a few weeks ago! Yikes! Again, remember, she’s nine!!!!!), I have found myself wanting to dress her in as many of my favorite brands as I possibly can before her will and taste (which leans toward Justice) makes her unwilling to wear the things I love. Perish the thought!

CAM00914-1So I have bought more Matilda Jane, Giggle Moon, Mustard Pie, Jelly the Pug,  and, my favorite of favorites, Persnickety, in the last few months than in the nine years proceeding this one. Call me silly, but it is my way of saying goodbye to the child she is before embracing the young woman she is becoming…and it is reminding me to appreciate the last couple of years I have with Lilian before she too begins to leave childhood behind.

I have loved the elementary years with my children. I have loved them little. I will miss all the cuddles. I will miss being their favorite person in the world (and the smartest one too!). They have been wonderful years.

But, when I look at Arabelle, I see the beautiful, smart, thoughtful young lady she is becoming, and I am just so belleproud.

I look at Gavin and I see this handsome young man, and I just think wow! This young man is mine, and I am so proud of who he is becoming.

And I know, that in saying goodbye to the childhood years, I am saying hello, to many new firsts. New beginnings. A whole new adventure all its own.

And I always have loved an adventure!

Hello, I’m Heather and I’m an addict–a book addict that is

booksnifferI love to read. Anyone who knows me knows this. I always have a book in tow–yes, an actual book, no e-readers for me. I love the feel of the new book in my hand, the weight of it on my palm, the slightly stale smell of old paper that wafts up as you open to that first page.

I have a tablet and I’ve tried reading on it…it’s a whole lot easier to slip that into my purse than a clunky old book–but I just can’t make the change, so call me old fashioned, but it’s a book that I take with me while my tablet sits lonely charging on my nightstand while I’m out and about.

Reading is a good thing. A great thing. Even the best thing–most of the time.

downloadYou won’t hear me talk about it often, but reading does have its downside. Sleep deprivation is most certainly one of them. Despite having three decades to learn how to put down a good book at a respectable hour and get some shut-eye, I find myself repeating the same litany to myself that I repeated to my father when I was a child. “One more chapter, just one more chapter and then I must really go to bed.” Will power has never been my strong suit as the thirty extra pounds of baby weight I’m still carrying around after the birth of my last child (she’s almost 7) will show you. I might say the words, just like the younger version of myself said them nightly to my 2b2eb8669559be5e5ad122677879e6b4dad, but just as they were empty promises then, they are empty resolutions today.

Many a day I have found myself before my first hour class leaning heavily on that cup of caffeine to pull back the reading induced fog I find myself in–my own version of the hangover. Who needs alcohol to produce a hangover when you have books right there, on your bookcase beckoning you into their worlds and plenty able to give you the same headache without the unsightly gut (or the trips to the toilet for that matter)–I call that a bargain!

And lack of sleep is not the only downside, oh no!

I consider myself a writer. I write my blog almost weekly, but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the time! Every once in a while I grab a solid hour or two to plug away at my novel, but not nearly enough. I just never seem to have the time!

I’m always complaining about the little time I have to write…and yet I’ve read easily a hundred books this year. I read and I read and I read. Somehow I always find time to read. Hmmm… I think I spy with my little eyes a great, big glaring inconsistency!

The truth is that I believe reading is the single greatest hindrance to my writing career. Yes, I like to blame the kids, and they do keep me eternally busy with their needing quality time and all (really, how dare they!) and all the chauffeuring about to baseball and gymnastics and football and…well you get the idea. And the job, yes, the job! Must blame the job (because what aspiring writer doesn’t find themselves with one of these to actually pay the bills) as it is by far the largest time sucker of them all! And teaching! Well goodness! Of course I don’t have time to write with those piles and piles of essays I have to grade on what feels like an eternal basis! And then there’s the housework, with a family of five, that never ends, always a load to throw in and a kitchen to clean…

True, true, and true, but I still find time to I read.

Woman walking across landscape of clothes

I can ignore the growing pile (no, not pile, the burgeoning mountain would be more accurate, a mountain with an impending rock slide currently…) of laundry. I can ignore the crusting over dishes in the kitchen sink. I can even shoo away my little darlings and tell them that Mommy needs a little quiet time and that I will read them a story later. All this I can do if I am in the throes of a great adventure.

So why? If I love to write so much why do I allow myself to continually get sidetracked by a good book? Wouldn’t that time be better spent writing my own novel?

Well, if I’m completely honest, I do it because I am innately lazy. Yep. There it is. It’s easier to read a world someone else has created than to create one of my own. It takes no real effort on my part. I get a cup of coffee, I curl up in my favorite chair, and I leave my world and all its problems behind without having to lift a finger. It’s wonderful–BUT, I’m beginning to see that it’s kind of like the Matrix. Books keep me in matrix-pods-680x400those little pods, giving me a whole alternate world to live in–I experience incredible things, get to be so many different people, live so many different lives, but the truth is, I’m in a pod and I’m not living at all.

Reason two for allowing myself to get sidetracked? It’s risk free. I’m not putting my ego, my self, my dreams on the line when I read a good book, but I sure as heck am when I write one. I’ve had this dream for thirty years…for thirty years I have wanted this, thought about it, planned it–but what if I’m not good? What if I finish my novel and it sucks toenails? Or, worse yet, what if I finish it, and it is good, but I can’t get anyone to read it? What then?

There is so much to risk when writing your novel. What people don’t often understand about authors is that we are putting our heart and soul out there for the world to see. We are pulling back the curtain so to speak, into our private world, and we’re allowing you to see into our thoughts, our feelings, and our struggles.

But wait a minute…I thought we were talking fiction? Am I saying that fiction isn’t fiction at all, that it really happened.

No, not exactly. I’m going to borrow from Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” for this one, because it sums it up so well.

“I take something that happened to me in 1983, and I make it happen to somebody else in 1943. I pick my life apart that way, try to understand it better by writing straight through it.”

“So everything in your books is true?”

The professor tilted her head and hummed. “Mmmm…yes. And no. Everything starts with a little truth, then I spin my webs around it–sometimes I spin completely away from it. But the point is, I don’t start with nothing (307).”

In other words, yes, it’s us out there, on some level. I don’t care if it’s dystopian or sci-fi, fantasy or historical fiction, the best writers pull from what they know–they are putting themselves on the line, and the risk in that is enormous! The rejection really is personal.

angry-fansSo, with all that to lose, it so much easier, and safer, to pull that new Sophie Kinsella off the shelf and leave my world to my own imagination where it can live safely without being assaulted by the critique of the armchair coach sitting safely on the sidelines telling me what I’m doing wrong and how I should play ball.

So, yes, I love to read, and I gain so very much through the worlds I have walked, but this is me, admitting to you, that I am an addict. I am a book addict–and if I ever want to finish my own book, I must, dear reader, PUT YOURS DOWN.

So, I’m taking the redpill. I want to see to the end of my rabbit hole, even if it “disparages” me (sorry, I just flashed John Cage from ‘Ally McBeal’) in the process.

MatrixBluePillRedPill

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.Morpheus, to Neo

I’ve got the red pill, and a glass of water…it’s time to stop being a coward. It’s time to see what I’m really made of.

What are you made of?

We all have our escapes–our addictions–our personal “pods.” What are yours? And what are you going to do about them?

Are you going to take the blue pill and continue avoiding the real life that is waiting for you, or do you have the courage–the guts– the gumption–to take the red pill and to find out just how deep your own rabbit hole goes?

Bring it on Boogeyboy! I can totally take you!

new-beginnings21I have often heard it spoken that it is easy to see the miracle in the open doors, but not in the closed doors. It sounds profound, but, when you really stop to think about it, it’s not.

Open doors imply beginnings. New things. Possibility. Adventure.

Closing doors too often imply endings (often not desired ones). Trepidation. Uncertainty. Fear.

I can get excited about the opening of a door. I love adventure and a journey ripe with possibility.

But a closed door?

hall of doorsWhen I see a closed, or a closing door, I’m focused on the ending, the closing. I’ve yet to see the new door that will open, and, so often, I have no idea what that new door will entail. Cognitively, I know there will be another door, but what if it isn’t as good as this door was? What if it leads to conflict, heart ache, or even pain? What if I can’t find that new door at all, but am instead left wandering the halls of life looking for the door I am meant to open? Stumbling along, lost and clueless, missing what should have been, could have been, or what was supposed to be? Instead, what if I find some other door I was never meant to open at all and find myself somewhere I never wanted to be?

In these moments of my life, I am reminded that I am to live by faith, not by sight. I am supposed to trust, to believe that God is in control–that all will be well.

It sounds so easy, but then why is it so darn hard?

It’s so darn hard because I’ve grown up. I’ve been confronted opening doorby the reality that God, though in control, is not averse (actually quite the opposite) to leading us to and through difficulty. So, yes there will be a door, but just as when I was a child and I was scared to open my closet door lest there be a Boogeyman on the other side, so I am scared to see what might be lurking on the other side of this door. I really can’t know what will be on the other side.

Will it be good things? Exciting things? Will I find myself in the mountain top experiences of my life?

boogeyman-1Or will I find myself in another desert, confronted with difficulty and a season of struggle?

No matter how often I read my Bible and see how trial is not only a part of life, but a necessary and formative part of it, my humanity can’t help but cringe away from it. Yes, it might be good for me, character building, turning the dross of my selfish existence to something more refined and infinitely better, but, gosh darn it! It hurts! And I don’t want to open the door if it’s going to hurt!

Perhaps that’s why, as I get older, I tend to get stuck in ruts. I get lethargic. I resist the ideas of change, taking risks, or stepping away from what I know (even if it’s not everything I want) and daring to step into the vague halls, the indistinct surroundings of possibility.

Maybe it is the curse of age, or perhaps the weight of the responsibility of being a parent. I know that change was something I embraced when I was young. It excited me, invigorated me. The sense of slamming doorpossibility was intoxicating. Perhaps not age, but disappointment sours that particular wine and when there is so much more at stake than just my own well-being, well, I’m hesitant to rock the boat.

Either way, the reality is sometimes we don’t choose to close those doors, they smack us in the butt as they slam closed behind us.

Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes for God to get us moving. Maybe the ugliness, the betrayals, the injustices that led to that door closing really are the hand of God–even though it seems like the unfairness of chance, a boss, or a loved one . . .

Regardless, of why and how this particular door has closed, I have determined that I am going to channel closetmonstermyself of old. I am going to look past the closing of this particular door and I am going to choose to imagine the doors that could be opening, not with a sense of trepidation, but with a sense of adventure. I am going to believe that it will not be a monster on the other side of this door, but rather something even better than what I’m leaving behind. And I know, even if it is the Boogeyman . . . well, all things work together for my good, not for my comfort, but for my good.

And, if it is a monster, well, I’m not going to take it sitting down. I’m going to take it head on and kick that monster’s a**! 😉

fighting back

I made a right turn at love, a left turn at happily ever after, and ended up in Oz

Sometimes lately, I feel like I’ve made my way into someone else’s story. There’s nothing wrong with this story; it’s just not my own. It feels like some great cosmic trickster picked me up and dropped me into a life I never planned on living, and yet, here I am–going through the motions.

Have you ever watched a movie and drifted off for a couple of scenes and when you woke up, nothing made sense? You weren’t really sure how the characters got there or what it all meant? That’s what my life feels like. Like I drifted off for a while and when I woke up, I found myself in a world not of my own choosing, one that I never planned to live–an alternate reality of sorts.

It’s kind of surreal. Like I’m on a cosmic caoursel that just keeps moving, turning and turning, never slowing down, never stopping. Around and around I go . . . no chance to get off and to get on the ride I’m supposed to be on. And yet, all my choices led me here. . . Or have they?

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We all set out with a destination in mind. When we’re young, the world is wide open, our minds are full of dreams. There are things we know we want–marriage, children–at least sometime down the road. Some things, we think we want–but when it really comes down to it–we don’t really want them at all. Others, we want, we pursue–but then life gets in the way. These are our dreams deferred, delayed, and sometimes, our dreams forgotten and lost forever. They drift into the land of “should have been,” “could have been,” and “if only.”

When I set out on this journey called “life on my own,” adulthood, or whatever you want to call it, I had it all plotted out. I knew what I wanted: where I wanted to go, who I wanted to become, the lifestyle I wanted to live. I saw it all as a story, and I was the heroine. My life was progressing from one logical chapter to the next logical chapter, and it all looked just how I wanted it to be.

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But then I met my husband.

He was part of my story, the story I wanted, the one I had planned. He was, but still he changed it–my story veered, turned, took a side road. The destination appeared to be the same, but it took a different route. He rode in with his charm and his own story–and a pile full of plans and dreams of his own, and so, he changed my story forever.

He was one of the characters I wanted, one I dreamed about, but the thing about life that is so different from a story is that it’s not written by the mind of one, but the mind and wishes and plans of many. Even though our dreams seemed to be in alignment, I was no longer making choices based only on myself–and so the story changed.

And after marriage, of course, come the children. That’s when you really start seeing the unfamilar territory. Road blocks, no outlet, detours. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t get rid of a single one of them (well, at least most days!). They are my joy, but, though we know in theory how much those little people are going to change our lives, the reality is so much more than we can understand until we live it. Nothing in our world is ever the same. It’s not the same story–we’re not even the hero anymore. We become a supporting character so that our children can be the hero or heroine in their own story.

The reality is that we can plot out our lives and outline our story, but life doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t follow our plans, and it certainly doesn’t consult us. Life is messy. Chaotic. Life is filled with the unexpected–disappointments, doors closing and doors opening. It is filled with heartbreak and loss, new birth and growth–and change.

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We think we choose our paths in life, but, in so many ways, we really don’t. It chooses us. In the past, they attributed it to fate or the cosmos. Today we sometimes say it is God or maybe mere chance–luck or unluckiness. Whichever way you want to term it, the reality is, so often our choices are few, and sometimes, even when we think we are choosing, our choices are really being chosen for us.

I recently read Lauren Oliver’s trilogy because my students are reading her book Delerium for my class. (I loved that book, btw! So much better than I expected!) In her final book  of the trilogy, “Requiem,” she makes a statement that puts it so well.

“They wanted the power to feel, to think, to choose for themselves. They couldn’t have known that even this was a lie–that we never really choose, not entirely. We are always being pushed and squeezed down one road or another. We have no choice but to step forward, and then forward again, and then forward again; suddenly we find ourselves on a road we haven’t chosen at all. But maybe happiness isn’t in the choosing. Maybe it’s in the fiction, in the pretending; that wherever we have ended up is where we intended to be all along.”

We start out choosing, but so often those very choices are dictated by the pushing and squeezing of fate and the cosmos. So few of us really end up where we intended at all. We come to terms with where we are. We might even love where we are, but it is not where we set out to go in the beginning.

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Maybe this is where I was meant to be all along, even though it’s not where I intended to go. Maybe I ended up here because of random chance and a good dose of both luck and unluckiness. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the life I was supposed to live, but it is the life I am living.

Maybe I’m just having an early mid-life crisis and no one else has every felt this way or knows what I am talking about at all . . . 😉

Or maybe, life is about rolling with the punches, accepting the role of fate and making the most of the choices that God–life–fate–the universe–allow us to make.

Ready! Set! ROAD TRIP!!

So, I’ve been a bit silent on the blog front. It was one crazy summer!!  You forget how nice and peaceful (at least comparatively) it is to have your older children at school leaving only one at home . . .  until summer break rolls around and the inevitable rounds of bickering, tattle-tailing and sound barrier breaking games begin and remind you that the stress of the school year is more like butterflies floating around and birds singing than the stress that is now your life.

There were days when I felt completely shell-shocked by the time my husband came home. All I could do was stare at him blankly. It’s what I like to call MAJOR stimulation overload! This partial introvert starts to report an error signal in such moments. It’s as if my brain starts shouting, “MALFUNCTION!! Must stop! Shutting down now!” And just like your computer when it shuts down, forcing closed any running programs and becoming unresponsive, well, that’s pretty much me. My face is like a black screen with one little blinking light that does not respond to any of your commands. It just . . .stares back at you . . . blankly . . . blinking . . . but not responding. Yep. That’s pretty much me this summer!

So, what do you do when your kids are driving you crazy?? What do you do to bring sanity back to the chaotic cacophony of a mother’s summer? You plan a cross country trip of course!

Did I mention that said cross country trip is all by yourself with said children?!

Okay. So maybe that wasn’t my brightest move ever! But children overload was trumped by the desire to flee the debilitating heat of a Texas summer. So, yes, I piled my three children into our little PT Cruiser and the kids and I hit the road for our annual trek from Texas to Wisconsin. Yes, I drive it by myself, and yes, we do it all in one day without stopping. Maybe I’m a bit crazy. Yeah . . . I suppose I kind of am . . .

This year, might have been enough to have given this “I can do anything . . . I am woman hear me roar . . . power Mama” a dose of very much needed sanity! You see, somewhere in the middle of Missouri, our overly helpful bank decided to put a hold on our check card due to these unusual out of state purchases. After all, they wanted to protect us!

 Normally, though it might have been frustrating, it wouldn’t have been cataclysmic. However, in the chaos of getting me and my three heat-weary, sibling overloaded children packed and out the door, I had forgotten to take my typical trip to the ATM for the “just in case” cash I usually bring. Yep. All I had was that frozen bank card and a twenty at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon . . . well besides my three cranky, bored children who had already been cooped up in that little car for almost 12 hours! 

Yep, Mama lost it! Tears, drama, and I have to admit, some fairly bad (okay, VERY bad!) language came pouring out of me all at the same time. I think I called my husband about thirty times in a half hour trying to get to him before the bank closed, and failing to get a hold of him, I called my poor mother and poured out my tale of woe to her regardless of the fact that she was 1000 miles away and unable to do a thing for us except worry. Not exactly fair for her, but I was desperate!

Luckily, my husband finally received my frantic SOS and skipped out on work to high tail it over to the bank and play the hero, which he has to do way too often to suit this independent, strong-minded woman of the modern world! I’m so glad that my husband isn’t averse to playing the knight in shining armor to my damsel in distress. (The truth is, I kind of like knowing that I have a knight in the back ground who can come and “fix it” when I can’t do it myself.  While you’re at, feel free to hold the door open for me . . . whichever feminist decided to throw THAT baby out with the bath water  . . . let me tell you . . . !)

Needless to say, next year, when that colossal road trip rolls around, I might have to rethink doing it by myself, or at least consider not doing it all in one day . . . And I will DEFINITELY have cash as well as my bank card . . . and maybe a credit card too . . . just in case . . .

Move Over Red Shirt, and Make Way for the Heroine!

There is so much of being an adult that isn’t what I expected. I’ve always considered myself a fairly rational person (despite my idealism . . . maybe I didn’t have a very real picture of myself after all . . .).

Maybe I should blame it on being such an avid reader. After reading so many stories that follow the same basic principle, maybe my subconscious actually started thinking it would work that way.

You know, the heroine, misunderstood and under estimated, meets the boy who sees her for who she really is, they fall in love and walk merrily into the future hand in hand where everything comes up roses and sugar blossoms. Happily Ever after and all that.

Like I said, I do have a fairly large rational streak, and I certainly never thought that is how it would work, in my head at least, but my subconscious expectations, well . . . maybe they weren’t so rational after all!

I guess, whatever it is I expected, this wasn’t it. The normalcy of life, the hum drum progression of days where each one looks pretty much like the one before, this is NOT what I expected. The endless succession of ordinary tasks . . . getting the kids up for school, getting them out the door, cooking cleaning and cleaning some more only to start over with the same list of “to dos” the next day . . . . I have more in common with a scullery maid than the heroine in a story!

And see, there is the rub. I used to feel like the heroine in my own story. The same feeling I feel at the beginning of a good book, that feeling of potential and anticipation where the unexpected, the magical could be waiting for me just around the corner . . . I lived life in that charged place.

And like a good story, insecure, underestimated girl did indeed meet the boy who helped me believe in me and who swept me off my feet. I heard the swell of Andrea Bocelli in the background and felt the fireworks in his fingertips. I had my story and I was the heroine and it was glorious.

Next comes the happily ever after part, right? Like I said, I was too rational (and too smart!!) to really believe that. I knew that life in the real world was something very different. What I didn’t expect was that I would stop being the heroine of my own story.

These days I feel much more like the red shirt in my story rather than Captain Kirk. Aren’t I supposed to be the protagonist in my own story?  I feel like an insignificant extra. I feel like when I had my children, my story ended and theirs began.

Maybe a good mother would be okay with that. Maybe a selfless person wouldn’t think about it  twice. Certainly June Cleaver never would have spared a second for such selfish thoughts! But, then again, I am no June Cleaver! Though I am a good cook, even Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals are fancier than I tend to cook. Not to mention that when it comes to housework, well, I am simply an abysmal failure. All my extended education did not prepare me for the impossible task of balancing the endless mountains of laundry and the messes left by some of the world’s messiest people! And I always thought that I was so good at multi-tasking! Hmpf!

But I digress. Maybe it is pure selfishness that makes me so crazy about not being the heroine of my own story. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me. Maybe a good mother is content to fade into the back story and live her life through her children.

But I don’t think so. Shouldn’t we all be the heroine of our own story? Should our sense of potential and anticipation disappear just because girl has already met boy? I don’t think so! My story is not over at 35! I won’t allow it to be!

Ah . . . but then there is the guilt. Shouldn’t this be enough? Shouldn’t I be perfectly happy just as I am? My husband is hot and he is my best friend to boot. I have three amazingly beautiful, smart children when genetics should have kept me from having any at all. Shouldn’t this be enough?

My family is my world and I would die for any one of them in a heartbeat. I know I am a good mother. I do put my children first and I suspect I always will, but that doesn’t mean that I need to play the role of martyr either.

I think the modern mother walks a difficult road. We have left the role of June Cleaver behind, but we see the error in the career mom who is an absentee mother. We long for balance. We want to be the heroine in our own story while teaching our children at the same time to be the hero/heroine of their own stories.

Most days it leaves me feeling like there is an internal tug of war being waged inside of me, and sadly, most often, it leaves me feeling like a failure at pretty much everything.

I don’t need to be the center of the universe. I don’t even need to be the center of my little family. But I do need to know that there is more waiting for me around the corner than Saturday’s soccer game. I need to know that I still have a role to play in this crazy story of life and that my role is more than just being the expendable red shirt.

I need to know that I am indeed the heroine of my own story, and that my story is not over, not now at 35, not at 55, not even at 75.

I think we all have a duty to step up and be the hero in our own story, to not sit back and let the story happen, but to find our role, to be an active participant.

Ever hero has to overcome, ever heroine has conflict and crisis that must be met. If you don’t have conflict, if you don’t have crisis, you’re not living your story.

Or, if you’re like me, and have had lots of conflict, always remember, the hero always has a choice; he can rise to the challenge and overcome and live the story he was created to live, or he can sit back and be the forgotten red shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a red shirt! I won’t be a forgettable extra in my own life! I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m going to keep trying to find that line, the line of being the best mother I can be while at the same time being the best me I can be.

Just Give in and Hop On . . . It’s Well Worth the Ride!

I think I should have been an editor. Why this never crossed my mind when I was younger, I’m not quite sure. I have always loved books, good ones, that is. From the time I could read, I devoured them. I was one of those dorky kids who read a book a day, and yet, thanks to my speed reading ability, I still managed to have a social life as well.

I remember when we got a new librarian at our local library when I was a kid. She looked at me skeptically when I wanted to check out ten books. She informed me that I couldn’t possibly read all of them before I came back next week (it was the summer reading program). The other lady looked at her and smiled. “Oh, yes she can, and she will!” And I did.

As busy as I am as a mom with three young kids and as a fledgling writer trying to get her career off the ground, I still manage to squeeze the time in to read a good book every now and again. Luckily for my family, there are a lot of good authors out there, but only a handful of truly excellent ones. As my husband told me the other day, when I stumble on a truly excellent writer, I become compulsive. I cannot stop reading. I escape into that world and feel like a stranger in my own until the adventure ends.

What’s amazing about these writers is that no matter how many times I read their books, I find them affecting me in the same way. I must have read the first 8 books in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan at least ten times by now, but they still pull me in in.

I have always prided myself as not being a band wagon kind of girl. I feel no real need to que up with the status quo and I don’t mind being the only one in a group to say that I have not adhered to the last Oprah book trend. I will judge for myself if a book is excellent and, frankly, having read more than just about anybody I know, I am a tough critic!

Well, if I ever doubted it, I now have to acknowledge that sometimes things reach band wagon status for a reason.

I had been told that I simply must read “The Hunger Games” before I see the movie.  I knew my mom’s group was planning to see the film so I contemplated on whether or not I should take this recommendation seriously. I hemmed and hawed, and finally decided, “What the heck?” I had just finished two of Emily Giffin’s very mediocre books “Baby Proof” (not good when you find the main character unlikeable) and “Love the One Your With” (her husband should have dumped her sorry ass!) and was looking for something to read, so why not give it a try? I went to half.com, placed my order and it arrived two days later.

When I crawled into bed that night I picked it up, turned it this way and that, frowned at it a bit and contemplated going downstairs and beginning to give Sookie and Charlaine Harris a re-read instead. I just wasn’t expecting much, but if I was going to see the movie next week . . .  I sighed, but began to read.

At 3:00 am I was only half done, but I REALLY wanted to finish it. I contemplated my 6:00 wake up call of Lily at my bed side demanding that I wake up to get her a cereal bar because she’s absolutely starving. I dog-eared the page, reluctantly put the book down and turned off the light.

Thank goodness I am a speed reader, because my house would have green stuff growing from the kitchen counter and some sort of monster living in the kid’s bathroom if I read at a normal person’s pace! I was hooked! Hook, line and sinker!

By late afternoon I was making a Target run to pick up book 2 because I wasn’t willing to wait the couple of extra days that ordering it from Half.com would have taken. Somehow I managed to spend time with my kids, cook the meals and even get some cleaning done despite my frantic pace.

The next morning I finished “Catching Fire,” went to see “Journey 2 the Mysterious Island” with the family (pretty much a snooze fest . . . you know it’s bad when the Rock’s little pectoral jiggle is the most entertaining part of the movie!), stopped at Target on the way back from the theater for book 3 “The Mockingjay,” and anxiously awaited bed time so I could disappear back into the world of Katniss Everdeen.

Few writers are able to draw me in so completely. Suzanne Collins is a master of her craft. Her characters were excellent, well rounded and real. Her plot was irresistible, and her writing had an edge and timing that was something special. Add to that the fact that the world itself is so thought-provoking and philosophically challenging to American modern day society and, well, this is a band wagon worth getting on!

If you love to read and haven’t read this book, block out a few days and prepare to immerse yourself in a world that will pull you in and not let go. It’s brutal. It will leave you feeling raw. But it will also leave you appreciative for all you have in a way that you have not been before.

South Padre Island: My Attempt at Spontaneity Part 4 Mommy Epic Fail Part 2 Holy Crap Did I Screw Up!!

As I mentioned in my first blog on our South Padre Island adventure (Click here if you missed it!), I am not the most spontaneous person in the world. Okay, fine (I hear all my friends snickering at that understatement), I’m a bit of a control freak. I have always admired the idea of spontaneity, it just seems so free and stress free, but the end of our second day at the beach reminded me of just why I am a control freak.

We went back to our room at the hotel in the late afternoon, huge smiles on our faces, anticipating a good night ahead, and feeling like all was well with the world. We got to the room, changed out of our wet and sandy things, and we all lay down on our beds stretching like satisfied cats. You could almost feel the tired contentment in the room.

That’s when a thought entered my head that had somehow gotten lost in the buzz and whirl of spontaneity. I sat up bolt upright and my mouth dropped open. “Oh, no!” I groaned.

“What? What is it?” my husband asked.

“It’s Monday . . .”

“Yeah?” you could hear the question in Aaron’s voice.

I turned and stared at him and said, “Alivia!” at which point Aaron’s face began to mirror my own.

We have an arrangement with our neighbor. She takes the kids to school in the morning and I pick them up in the afternoon. I had asked Aaron to call her on Friday to tell her we were going out of town and we wouldn’t be able to pick Alivia up for those two days. Aaron had forgotten, but at the time I thought it wasn’t a big deal because we thought we were going to postpone the trip. Once we worked everything out to go after all, the thought never again entered my head until that very moment.

I felt HORRIBLE! All I could think of was poor Alivia sitting there, waiting for me to take her home and having no one come. If the tables had been turned I would have been so upset! That’s what I get for being spontaneous! I’m not meant to be spontaneous! There’s a reason God made me an obsessive planner! Ugh! And now I had dropped the ball big time.

To make matters worse, Aaron’s cell had died and my cell, which is just a dinosaur pay as you go phone that I rarely use, didn’t contain Alivia’s number. I, of course, remembered my charger, which I didn’t even need. Aaron, on the other hand, had forgotten his, and there was no one we could think of to call who would have their number. I felt like the worst friend/neighbor EVER!

We finally came up with the idea of calling the school, and though they wouldn’t give us their number, they were willing to call them for us. I knew it was too little too late, but it was the best we could do.

Aaron made the comment to me in passing, “I just hope they don’t call the police worried about us.” I didn’t think much about that. I mean, I know it’s not like me to drop the ball like that, but surely they would just assume that I screwed up, right? After all, Alivia knew that we were planning to go to the ocean. Surely she would note her parents concern and tell them we were going on vacation?

Almost the first thing I did when I got home was go next door and sheepishly knock on their door. I hate this kind of thing, but there was no way around it. I had screwed up too bad.

I apologized profusely, and of course they assured me it was okay, that it happens (though of course all I could think of is that no, I don’t do that kind of thing and that there was no excuse!). I jokingly mention that at least they hadn’t called the cops worried about us. Robert looked at me without expression and responded, “Well, actually we did. We were pretty worried about you guys.”

It was all I could do not to groan. I was SO humiliated! I didn’t even stick around to hear the whole story. I apologized again and high tailed it home wallowing in my sense of failure.

Aaron, not knowing that I had already gone over to apologize, went over as well. He got the whole story. Apparently the police had poked around our house a bit, waited until Tuesday morning and when they heard we still hadn’t shown up, they went to the school to see if anyone had seen or heard from us.

All I could think of is that the police showed up at my children’s Elementary school because I am a crap mother who can’t even remember to let her neighbor know she’s going out of town, and now the WHOLE SCHOOL KNOWS IT! UGH!!

Luckily, they showed up while the office secretary was on the phone with us so she was able to assure the police that all was well before they started calling our family or started a full blown search. Still, talk about a HUGE Mommy Epoch fail! I don’t think that I will live down the mortification from this one anytime soon!