Father’s Day

A few Februaries back, I took a selfie just before the Clean Lake Alliance’s Frozen Assets 5K run on Lake Mendota. I stared at the photo, thinking: “Dang. I look just like my dad.”

I look like my dad!

It was, simultaneously, a hilarious and sobering moment.

Over the years I began to recognize more and more of my father’s traits in me, and also those of my grandfathers. Some good, and others…not so favorable. I am blessed to have both sets of grandparents still living, and I like to think I know them pretty well. I believe I got my “snark” and teasing humor from my maternal grandfather and my penchant for careful deliberation and stocky frame from my paternal grandfather. My grandfathers differ in their personalities, but they both are good, hard-working men who provided for their families, remained faithful to their wives, and are generous with their grandchildren. They both were avid deer-hunters in their day and love the outdoors. I practically grew up running around outside, playing with my cousins in Rothschild or roaming the shores of Tippecanoe Lake. One day, I will share stories from my childhood showing just how large a role both sets of my grandparents and the outdoors played in my life. 

My father also worked hard to provide for his family. He worked rotating shifts at a paper carton packaging plant for over thirty-five years. It wore him down, sometimes. I got a taste of what he endured when I worked at the same company as a vacation replacement for the regular employees during the summers of my college years. This stint convinced me pretty quickly that I disliked factory work. And yet, my dad put up with it until he was sixty-two, when he retired. This is a man who double-majored in history and political science and has a college degree from UW-Madison. He thought about becoming a lawyer or a teacher, but would have loved nothing more than to coach children’s sports teams, or so he claims.

Throughout my childhood, my parents bickered often and still argue quite frequently but they remain together to this day in spite of all their disagreements. I learned a lot about forbearance, patience, and forgiveness from my parents. Unlike my mother, whose fury is quickly spent in a verbal tirade, my father is not a particularly vocal man and tends to quietly hold a grudge. The words that spring to mind when I think of him are taciturn and stubborn. Sometimes, I joke that he’s obsessive compulsive because of the weird things he did and still does. For example, cutting down the ends of chip and bread bags as their contents depleted. Replacing a broken toilet tank-lever with fishing wire attached to a bobber. Turning on all of the televisions and radios in the house–at the same time–and watching or listening to none of them. Or affixing power strips to wooden furniture in such a way that it wrecks the finish. Just thinking about some of his odd habits makes me smile, even as it drives my mother crazy.

It is sometimes difficult for me to spend time with my father. Not because we don’t get along, but because I feel we have little to talk about. My mother and I can easily find things to discuss: church, school, children, baking, flowers, etc. But my father? When I call my parents, he hands me off to my mother after five minutes, tops, of awkward conversation. 

At first glance, my father and I appear to have few interests in common. In his youth, he was a decent student and participated in football, softball, volleyball, and probably other sports I can’t remember. In my youth, I pursued scholarship above all else and dropped gym class the first chance I got in high school. He loves watching most flavors of sports on the television. I would rather read a book (so would my mother). He diligently mows the lawn and shovels snow off the walk, each in their appropriate season. The grass would go to seed in the summer and the driveway would become a slush-pit in the winter, I fear, if the mowing and the shoveling were left to me. 

Upon further reflection, however, my father and I are more alike than we are different. We would manage quite well sitting in silence together. Although there are those who say otherwise, I am not a great talker. My father detests traveling; he won’t drive any further than across town to see his parents. And just forget about him making the two-hour trip to visit his eldest daughter. Fortunately, I have a husband who is not averse to driving, otherwise we would never go anywhere, either. Like my father, I tend to be a homebody. I could contentedly sit at home for an entire weekend without going anywhere and not feel as if I am missing out on life. In high school, I acted in several plays. Only minor character roles, but I had fun. My father was once in a play, too, but he played a major role. I am told that he was an excellent Charlie Brown. I can imagine it.

Looking back on my childhood, I recall the time I spent with my father. The ice-fishing expeditions in my snowmobile suit, mainly spent exploring the frozen lake or reading books instead of staring at a tip-up. Traipsing through the woods with our beagle, Shambles. Playing “catch” with the burgundy MacGregor baseball mitt and the green-handled aluminum bat I got for one birthday or another. And then there were the softball games at ballparks, where I seldom actually watched him play…yeah. That last example was more like time spent “adjacent” to my father. But I still went. And sometimes watched parts of the game. 

Of course, as I grew up we spent less time together. But I knew he still cared about me, in his way. I remember him trying to counsel me through the first boyfriend breakup when I was sixteen. Me, lying in my bed, weeping, and he’s droning on about how so-and-so is nearly a man–the boy in question was nearly two years older than me–and I had to focus on school, etc. He even quoted “Que Sera, Sera” to me. To this day, I don’t know if my mother forced him to try and comfort me or if it was his own idea. Either way, I appreciated the sentiment, if not the manner of delivery. 

On this day when we honor our fathers, I have shared a little bit about mine. At times, he was emotionally distant, as I suppose many fathers are with their children, however this never affected me adversely. I knew my father was always there.

Dad, I realize that you will probably never see this post–you don’t much like reading–but know that I appreciate your sacrifices over the years for me and my brothers. 

I love you, Dad.

Birth Pains

Why do I write?

You know what? Writing a book is hard work. Getting anything accomplished when your internal editor is screaming at you the entire time is like trying to do a month’s worth of grocery shopping while three mischievous toddlers are stealing things out of the cart and then hiding them in all the wrong places around the store.

Actually, I’ve never had that experience but it sounded really good – before I put it down on virtual paper.

Oh, well…

You know what else? Writing a book is also a lot of fun and rewarding on a personal level. It’s especially nice when your beta readers tell you that they enjoyed reading it and are looking forward to the next installment.

black trunks of leaf-bare trees set against a lurid sunset with red-tinted clouds.
I would like to use a photo like this for the cover of the second novel, Wyldling Quest.

There are so many elements that I want to incorporate into the Wyldling Series. I have had so many ideas over the years that finishing the series was a daunting task, because my conception of what the story was really about kept changing as I matured. Finally, I had to put my foot down and say: “That’s it. Enough’s enough! Just write the blasted thing, already!” Breaking it up into six or seven books instead of writing it as a single novel has also helped.

Once I made a decision to turn it into a young adult fantasy series the path became clearer. I had defined my audience. But how to make it different from every other YA fantasy out there? Well, how many fantasy series do you know about that have a strong and overt Christian theme? By overt I mean that there are direct quotations from the Bible and characters that talk about Jesus Christ and believe in Him as their savior.

Please let me know if you find any fantasy books like that. I mean it. I would like to read them. I figure that there aren’t that many out there because I can’t find them. They certainly aren’t on the bestseller list on Amazon.

No, not anything by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. I’m talking about recent young adult Christian fantasy.

I am aware of fantasy series that have good moral themes and point vaguely toward Christianity or have characters that resemble Christ as an archetype. However, there is no mention of the real Jesus or how badly people need to be saved from their own depravity. Many of these stories promote the idea that most people are basically good with some bad tendencies that can be overcome with hard work and the best intentions -with some help from our Heavenly Friend, of course! – because that is what we all truly want to believe, isn’t it?

I realize that these authors – even the ones that are Christians -probably did not intentionally set out to write a book that included Christian themes for the purposes of leading others to Christ. When it comes right down to it, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a market for that type of fantasy novel. In the publishing business, like in any other business, money talks. Very loudly.

I like to think that authors write books because they want to tell an entertaining story that was burning in their hearts and crying out for release into the world. It’s a like having a baby (and I can honestly say that because I have given birth to and raised children).

“There is no greater pain than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

Quite frequently, I find myself thinking about my story and what I am going to write next. It is an obsession. I should be finding more work to do for my job, but I’m day-dreaming up plot points. I should be trying to fall asleep, but my brain is busy constructing witty dialogue and dramatic scenes. I should be doing housework, but I need to write. I should be weeding the garden (such as it is) but I need to write. Presently, I look at the clock and realize that it is past dinner-time, I should really cook something for my boys …

But I need to write!

I need to write because the people living inside of my head are begging me to tell their stories. And they won’t shut up until I do.

When I hear people talking about current events, or T.V. shows, or debating the strengths and weaknesses of sports teams, I often cannot relate, because my mind isn’t even on the same planet.

I am wandering around somewhere on Tehara.

People have gone into therapy for help in managing smaller obsessions, I’m sure, let alone an entire planet.

Other writers out there: do you know what I’m talking about?

Far Out Unicorn Medal

Groovy. Peace out, man.

This is what I was doing on Saturday morning: the Color Run at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The run is not timed, so half the participants were walking instead of running. I alternated doing both, because I am woefully out of shape. It was a lot of fun. You get colored powder thrown at your white T-shirt along the course, giving rise to a tie-dye effect. Sadly, all of the colorful powder washed out of the shirt when I washed it. However, I got a UNICORN medal for finishing. Which was all I really wanted, anyway.img_20190824_105944165