Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coming Down From the Mountain

Our church did something pretty neat this Sunday. They canceled our morning worship service and instead of gathering together, we all went out. There were five service projects in all:serving breakfast at a women's shelter, cleanup at a teen shelter, preparing a home for refugees who will arrive soon, clearing trash and excess growth from a forest preserve and finally, helping deliver a refrigerator to a woman in need.

You can guess which ones were most popular with the core members of the church: the people-oriented ones. So as part of the forest preserve team I actually had the unique opportunity of interacting with a large number of newcomers to our church. Say what you will about the lack of spiritual/relational value in clearing a forest - I loved the chance to get to know a few people with whom I'd had little previous opportunity to interact. Plus it was satisfying to see the huge difference three hours could make on a small tract of forest.

It was no surprise later at our celebration service in the evening to hear the emotional "mountain top" experiences of the people serving in direct contact with others. I was encouraged by these reports. But I'm also a bit jaded after over twenty years in this type of setting. I thought to myself as one weepy person after another shared their stories, "Sure, you feel this way today. But where will you be in another couple of months? Will you, like most other comfortable Americans, settle back into what you've always done?".

There were the determined speeches promising to do more, asking for others to commit too. All good and well, except that they were prompted by emotion, not wisdom. Even that evening as I spoke with other people about their experiences I learned the other side: some needs were too deep to be fixed with the band-aid approaches that the emotions were calling forth. And now the emails have started to fly, suggesting we add more jobs to our already over-taxed Sunday morning schedule, without taking the time to see what jobs can be dropped to accommodate them.

I'm just hoping these people who are moved by emotion to do more will take time to slow down and think more. That they will reason out steps that will work, not just the first thing they think of. I also hope as they come down off the mountain and return to the reality of people not having the time or energy they're asking for, that they don't lose faith - in God or people. We all want to do more. Some of us have no space for it right now. Some of us need to start smaller, with baby steps. And some of us are still listening to know what our part will be. I also hope they don't burn themselves out trying to do it all on their own.

My biggest desire? That more of what happened on Sunday does get incorporated into our church life. Maybe not on a weekly basis. But in a doable way that respects what we've already committed ourselves to, yet allows us to get outside ourselves and do more.

Forgive my ramblings. I'm still processing this whole deal. If you have thoughts, share them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Home Grown Cleaning Service

The uber-princess and I washed our hardwood floors today. She loves to do this chore because she feels like she's being Cinderella (surprise,surprise). I love having her do it because it gets done faster...most of the time.

So what happened today while we were doing this? Well, you know how it goes. Looking down at the floor, I noticed the basedboards were dusty. And since I was looking at the baseboards, that made me pay more attention to the doorframes. They were full of grime and fingerprints. But if you're going to look at doorframes, then naturally you'll see the doors themselves, which I could tell were not very close to the white color I'd painted them. At this point one would assume I'd start looking over the walls themselves. I didn't.

Instead we finished washing the floors and then we stopped. We were both tired out from all the floor scrubbing. I put the uber-princess down for a nap and went on to other things. But...later in the afternoon, after homework was done and snacks were eaten, I called upon my other two daughters to tackle the baseboards and doorframes. They jumped at the task with glee, prompting the uber-princess to join in. In little time the task was done.

So now I sit in a kitchen with gleaming floors (oops, ignore the crumbs left from dinner and the leaves tracked in by Musing Dad) and shiny baseboards. The doorframes have no fingerprints and the doors... Well, they're still not quite white. I'll have to save them for the girls to do another day. But what a joy to share my burdens with my kids!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Guest Blogger on NaNoWriMo

By now you might have heard the buzz about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where thousands of everyday people take the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. Sounds a little insane, writing nearly 2,000 words a day, every day, for 30 days straight. But many do and even live to tell the tale, or better yet, their tale lives beyond those thirty days in the form of a published novel. One such fearless writer is Michelle Gregory. She offered to share her NaNoWriMo story with us. Here's Michelle:

For thirty years, I was a fiction writer who avoided writing. I read about writing, wrote in a journal, shared family stories in scrapbooks, and blogged. Deep inside, though, I knew I was a writer, and I almost didn’t give that part of myself a chance to be heard.

That changed in 2005 when I read a little book called No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty.

Mr. Baty is a man who came up with the crazy notion that all it takes to write a novel is to write it. The catch is that you write it in 30 days. His reasoning is that if you write it that fast, you have to turn off your internal critic and just write. Of course, writing it that fast means that you have to lower your expectations from “this will be the next bestseller” to “this will not make someone throw up.” On the other hand, if you don’t write anything, you’ll end up being the “one day novelist” – as in “I’ll write a novel one day.”

In October 2005, I visited Mr. Baty’s website and read about his contest, known as National Novel Writing Month. The thought of writing 50,000 words in 30 days was staggering, but I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo anyway, just to see if I could do it. I could have done it any month, but November is the official month of NaNoWriMo, and there was something exhilarating knowing that I would be furiously typing 1700 words a day with thousands of other people around the world.

As I subjected myself to neck cramps, bleary eyes, and possible carpal tunnel, I learned that the story in my head was frantic to get out (I guess it had been in my head for too long). By day three, I had 9,000 words. By day 17 I had 53,000 words, and the story was only half-finished. I stopped and realized that I had not written the story that I really wanted to tell. But I had written something, and I had proved to myself that I had a story in me.

To pursue my dream, I had to give up time with my children, time with my husband, and time with friends. I put aside nagging household projects, and did only the minimum to keep my house running.

Would I do it again? Yes, because it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve signed up to go through the 50,000 word frenzy again this year. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is a great way to discover the writer who may be hiding inside. You could join me and find out if there’s a writer inside of you.

Michelle Gregory and her husband of twenty-one years reside in Mesa, Arizona. Amidst the craziness of homeschooling three children and taking care of four dogs and fluctuating numbers of fish, she finished her NaNo novel – Eldala. It is now available at Amazon.com. When she isn’t writing, she also enjoys blogging, playing with her kids, watching chick movies, working on her scrapbooks, and reading a good book. You can visit her blog at Life in the Midst of Writing.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I'm going away on a brief retreat this weekend. It comes at a good time. I'm ready for a little time away from the busyness of everyday. There's a lot to ponder, to process, to pray about - both good and hard. This week I've learned of two people that are facing the diagnosis of cancer. My heart feels grief for what they are going through and the challenges that lie ahead. But at the same time, I know that both of these ladies will draw strength from God in the days ahead. So while the walk is each of theirs alone to make, they won't make it alone. They'll travel it in the company of the One who made them and who knows every bit of what they face and what they need.

My family is in the process of memorizing all of Psalm 103. And I am so glad for the words there. Charity and Leslie, I pray the words of this Psalm for you - that you'll be able to praise the Lord with all your inmost being in the trials you face, that you won't forget the benefits of knowing Him, the One who knows how you are formed. I pray that a new depth of knowing that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love comes to you as you walk this hard journey.

Then there is also the good: in Sunday school this week they gave a presentation of the Gospel to the children. This time Timid Daughter was ready to take a stand - she prayed with her teacher that Jesus would become her forever friend:the Savior who died for her sins and the Lord whom she'll follow and obey. What grace!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blog Interview on Book Promotion

Michelle Gregory at Life in the Midst of Writing has been doing a series of author interviews on the subject of book promotion - in part due to her interest learning book promotion for her new release, Eldala, and I believe (correct me, Michelle, if I'm wrong) also in part as a lead-up to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) next month.

Today she features an interview with yours truly. If you're interested, check it out and let me know what you think. She does a good job interviewing and has featured some neat writers, so it's a fun series to read.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

When Smaller is Better

I'm sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I hate grocery shopping. I've come to despise it more and more over the years, but until recently I couldn't pinpoint why. It's because the stores have been getting so dang HUGE. When Meijer first opened their store here a few years ago, I was excited to shop there. For me, it's usually about price and well, they had me there. That is, until they rearranged their store. Now, instead of all the items I need in a grocery trip (foodstuffs, cleaning products and toiletries) being on ONE side of the store, they've got them spread to opposite ends. Once I have all the food, I have to trek ten miles across a wasteland of car parts, live animals, plastic containers, shoes, clothes and the like to get to the toothepaste and body soap. Forget good prices, time is money, honey. And that store takes up too much of mine.

So I quit going to Meijer. Now I just shop at the smaller grocers. I'm still learning the layouts of the local ones, but even if I miss something it's no big deal to backtrack a little.

The other thing I couldn't stand about Meijer? The tons and tons of plastic bags I'd take home with each trip. No paper available there. Just plastic. It helps that I now have a beautiful big canvas shopper and a nice Trader Joe's handled plastic-coated grocery sack. Today I made a quick and breezy trip to the Polish grocer and came home in less than an hour with a week's plus worth of groceries and only one plastic bag. No big long hikes, no plastic bags into the landfill. Oh, and I didn't have to fight with the produce bags either.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Playing Pretend

I'm standing in my kitchen today and I get a surreal feeling. Like, is this for real? Is this beautiful kitchen mine? Am I the lady of this house? How did I get here?

The lyrics of the Talking Heads song, "Once in a Lifetime" start playing in my mind. Part of it goes: "And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself-well...how did I get here?"

Do you ever feel that way? Like you're just shamming; playing pretend; faking your way along? Today is that kind of day for me. Somehow I got to be the wife and the mom in this house. And I have to play those roles convincingly, even though I'm not always convinced myself that I can play them or even any of the other roles I play. I "coordinate" things for the church nursery and write up convincing sounding correspondence for my moms' group. I try to fake it in sales and marketing for my small business, pretending I've got a slick, professional operation when it's really just little old me at my computer banging out marketing copy and press releases.

I'm waiting for someone to find the curtain and pull it back to reveal...me. Just a simple gal, blowing all the bells and whistles to make it look like I know what I'm doing. Then again, maybe there is no curtain. Maybe I'm learning enough along the way that some of the things I'm doing are no longer shamming. And a saying I heard as a teen from motivational speaker, George O'Hare, still echoes in my mind louder than the Talking Heads lyrics. "Fake it 'til you make it", he said. Maybe he's right, maybe someday soon I'm actually going to "make it".

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Rush Hour Chuckle

About a week or so ago I had occasion to travel through our fair "city" during the evening rush hour. I was only making a short trip, but the long wait at stoplights was starting to get on my nerves (surprise, surprise). Then while I was waiting in a particularly long backup I noticed a movement of yellow in the window of a car a little ahead of me on the right. I watched the car carefully. There it was again!

At that moment traffic ahead of me moved slightly. I inched forward too, straining to see inside the car. When I got up far enough I could see it clear as day: an older gentleman, plaid fedora on his head, with a tiny white-haired woman in the passenger seat beside him. He was busily shaking a pair of maracas, apparently in time to some music. The steering wheel didn't seem to impede him in any way. And the traffic delay stole little of his joy. He just merrily shook those bright yellow maracas, barely pausing when the traffic moved along.

I sat watching him, chuckles bubbling up inside me, glad for the rush hour delay. I enjoyed this soundless concert for two whole traffic light waits. Then, still laughing to myself, I had to continue on my way. What a delightful moment where rush hour became something to enjoy.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Shopping Can Be...Fun?

Friday was a half day at school. It was also my day to get a few errands run. At the mall. When I told my children this you would have thought I'd suggested an outing to the stock yards.

"You're going to ruin my half day off!" LMH exclaimed.

I sighed. They'd caught my distaste for shopping. Perhaps it is not a bad thing in the battle to avoid materialism, but it's definitely un-American. And given the extra time we had together, I didn't want them to think their day was ruined. So I did what any sane mom would - I gave them cash. A dollar apiece to add to the bits in their wallets and the open invitation to spend what they had on whatever they wanted.

Naturally I also gave each child the option to visit a store of their choosing. We ended up at the Disney Store, Claire's Boutique and...that was enough. All three wallets were sufficiently drained in two shops and three girls were pleased with their purchases.

After a snack of Cinnabon rolls, they declared it a fun afternoon.

As for me? The company of my children was enjoyable. I took satisfaction in getting most of my errands accomplished and even in finding a nice outfit for a good price. But shopping? It's still pretty much a drag.