It’s that time of year again…

Oh no! The uncles are swarming! The uncles are swarming!

Indeed. Tis the season when the ants come marching ten by ten to invade your cubicle at work. So, make sure to keep your desk clean of sticky residue from those PB&J’s and miscellaneous yogurts lest you attract their attention. I find that the TERRO liquid ant bait traps work pretty well, too. Unless you want continuous ant visitations, of course. Then by all means scatter sugar about your desk. 🙂

Reflections for Mother’s Day

I have heard it said that our children never really belong to us, that God only lends them to us for a little while.

This rings true. I think that a large part of being a mother is about learning how to let go. As soon as they learn to walk, it seems as if our little ones are dead-set on running away from us. A little each day, each month, each year, we see our children move a little further away and in the process, become more themselves. It is difficult for moms to allow children independence and room to grow into the people they are meant to be, because we know from our own experience that this growth often involves pain.

Mothers naturally want to shield little souls from hurt. And when they get hurt, we want to make everything all better. However, there are some boo-boos that even a mother’s kiss cannot heal. Although the temptation is strong to uproot our little sprouts from the garden of life and keep them sheltered in our greenhouse forever, this does not benefit them in the long run. We should instead tend to our little sprouts and cultivate them out in the weather where they grow. This way, little plants can develop a tough cuticle as they extend those branches and unfold their leaves toward the light.

One of my favorite songs is “Let Me Be Your Armor” by Assemblage 23. Go ahead and google the lyrics (or search for it on www.assemblage23.com), and you will see how this song seems to describe parental protection – and how this “protection” can go too far. Now, maybe I am really off base regarding Tom Shear’s intent with this song, but that is how the lyrics resonate with me as a mother.

When all is said and done, all we as parents can do is prepare our children to endure trials bravely in faith, by being present and modeling this behavior ourselves.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

God always has the best advice, doesn’t He? The trick is following His advice, and to do that, one needs to find “the way” in His Word.

The truth is, we cannot always protect our children from harsh reality or prevent them from making mistakes. Sometimes, all we can do is guide them through the consequences of their sins and poor decisions. As painful as it is to watch the pruner’s shears at work, we have to allow our little sprouts some freedom to learn from their mistakes – shed that dead wood – so that they can blossom into their own individual.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I love metaphors involving plants and flowers.

In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is this: don’t be a helicopter parent! Yes, parents should protect their children from harm but there are times when it is not appropriate to hover over them and shield them from the consequences of their actions.

The time comes when mom can no longer make decisions for her kid. She has to let them decide for themselves. This is painful to watch sometimes, but necessary. As they grow, children need to know that they have some freedom to make their own choices. This way, they learn more about being independent day by day.

Even if that means that the shirt they choose to wear happens to clash horribly with the pants!

Maple buds in April. Soon, the leaves will unfold. This is no coddled tree!

Steady, As She Goes

I have a ¾ sleeve T-shirt with “World’s Okay-est Runner” emblazoned across the chest. I’ve had it for almost 2 years now and it remains one of my favorite shirts. Quite frequently, I wear it when I work out at the YMCA, or when I go running on the Glacial Drumlin Trail. More recently, I wore it this morning when I ran a 5k race in Monona, WI. When I saw this shirt on clearance in the sportswear section at Walmart, I laughed, and knew that I had to buy it, because this T-shirt seemed to have been made with me in mind.

My Walmart T-shirt. Seriously, some of my favorite clothes come from Walmart

That’s me. The world’s “okay-est” runner. Would you like to know how okay the “okay-est” runner did in the Monona 5K?

  • The average finish time was 36:59. I finished in 37:59 (sprinting the last 100 yards).
  • My pace was 12:14 per mile (I never said I was fast.)
  • Of the 40-year-old finishers, I placed 6 out of 13 (not bad.)
  • 447 women finished, but the race results did not include my placement within my gender (however, I’m pretty sure that I finished somewhere in the bottom half.)
  • I placed 426 out of 656 total finishers.

As the numbers go, I am below average. In any given racing event such as this, I will probably never place in the top ten, even in my sex and age group. Now, I don’t say this to be self-deprecating, to garner sympathy or beg for validation. I am satisfied with my experience.

First off, it was a splendid, beautiful day to go out and get some exercise (along with a whole bunch of other people.) I kept up a running cadence the entire way despite several hills along the route and people trying to drive their cars along the course.

Additionally, I finished this 5K in better time than I thought I would. I even saved up enough “oomph” to sprint the last 100 yards and across the finish line. Why? Because – even though it made me wonder for a second if I was going to faint – it was pretty awesome to pass a few people who had passed me earlier on the course. And my performance was better than I anticipated going into the chute. All of these things were pretty cool. However, the only goal that I actually set for myself was that I finish that 5K.

Did you notice how many times I used some form of the word “finish” so far? Ten times! All right, that last one didn’t count…it was only nine times. Naturally, repetition of this word is purposeful, because I was trying to make a point. I’m sure you got it right away, mainly because you are smart, but also because as a writer I have all the subtlety of a machine gun in a china shop. Or, maybe that was supposed to be Pee-Wee Herman in a movie theater? Moving on to the point…

Despite my comparative slowness as a runner, despite the hills and despite dodging vehicular traffic – I finished the race.

Running a race is probably one of the most trite and overused metaphors for life in the history of humankind, but I feel that it is legitimately applicable. Paul used running as a metaphor for the Christian life in his epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, and so did the writer to the Hebrews. The prize of finishing this race, of course, is attaining heaven. Sadly, so many people give up part way and drop out of the race of Christian living because the way seems too long, too hilly, or there is too much traffic interfering and frustrating their path. Or folks simply get lost because they wander away from the course God set for them. Even worse, many people choose not to run – or even walk – that course at all.

Fortunately, So long as there’s life, there’s hope. God is patient with us and offers us plenty of opportunities to get into the race or back on the course. He doesn’t care so much about when we start, how fast we run, or how many times we stumble off the route and back on again. What matters most to God is that we finish, in faith, with Him.

On a more humorous note, I feel that running a race can also be used as a metaphor for writing a novel. Some authors are highly prolific, publishing a book – or several – every year like clockwork. These are your 6 minute mile runners. They are fast! Productive! Best-selling authors! And sometimes their books are even pretty good to read.

And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s me. I haven’t finished my race yet, but I’m still plugging away. “Steady, as she goes,” sing the Raconteurs as I type.

Even if it takes me another year to finish and publish – and I WILL finish and publish – my first novel, I can take comfort in the fact that I am the “world’s okay-est runner.” My Walmart discount T-shirt assures me that this is so.

How goes your race, O Reader of my blog?

The Thief of Joy

I confess that I can be described as an “indifferent housekeeper.” Sadly, I am so ashamed of my house as a disgusting disaster area that I am reluctant to invite people over. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, like they need to don a bio-hazard suit in order to enter the door! Whenever folks do visit, I inwardly fret and freak out. I wonder: are they judging me? Do they think that I am a slob? Okay, the truth is that I really am a slob. “The proof is in the pudding,” as they say. More apropos to my situation: the proof is in the slovenly condition of my home.

There is a part of me that constantly nags that I am lazy, that I am an awful wife and mother for not taking better care of the house. I need to develop an organization and cleaning plan and stick to it. I need to get up off of my fat butt and do the chores. Shame on me for being a poor steward of the blessings that God granted to me and my family!

Whence spring these negative self-comments? Perhaps I judge my own housekeeping unfavorably based on my impression of somebody else’s home. I have friends who have beautiful, seemingly well-organized – and, above all – clean homes (Unlike me, they have included hiring a cleaning company in their budget, but I feel that’s just making excuses on my behalf.) The fact of the matter is, I feel that I am not doing my part in maintaining my own home and this stresses me out. In short, I am profoundly unhappy and disappointed in myself.

And don’t get me started on my so-called writing “career.” What career? Ha! I’m not even published yet. As much as I love reading others’ published works, it is not done without a modicum of envy. “Here are folks,” I say to myself, “who have boldly gone out, doggedly pursued their dream to become an author, and succeeded admirably. Meanwhile, what have you accomplished in this vein? Diddly-squat, and you’re not getting any younger.”

As Theodore Roosevelt once so aptly put it: comparison is the thief of joy.

Have you ever had these sort of thoughts about yourself? Not very encouraging or self-affirming, are they? We need to identify this malicious voice – Cathy Fyock calls it “the Bitch” while I call it “the Shrew” – and tell it to shut up and ship out. We don’t have time to dwell in fear of rejection, self-doubt and destructive self-criticism.

As usual, God in His wisdom has some advice for us self-criticizers:

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:4,5 (NIV)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Huh. Good point, there. I should stop worrying about all this stuff other people are doing and just do something, myself. Perhaps it won’t silence that nagging shrew in my head – she’s just too stubborn and persistent – but hopefully it will decrease the volume of her voice long enough for me to accomplish something noteworthy in my life. It will take prayer. It will take hard work. I might need an accountability partner to drag me kicking and screaming out of my recliner but I have confidence that if it is God’s will, I will become a published author.

Who knows? With God giving me strength, I might even improve in my efforts at housekeeping.

So, with that in mind, let’s you and me make a deal. I’ll try to be my best “me.” You try to be your best “you.” And while we acknowledge and celebrate others for their virtues and good works, we won’t punish ourselves for not being blessed with their exact set of capabilities and/or success.

What do you think your best “you” would look like? What methods have you used to successfully manage “the Shrew” in your own head? And no, drowning her with alcohol doesn’t count (LOL.)

I hereby formally invite you to comment.

“Cats, thy name is sloth,” or “Cats, the eaters of ambition.”

Justum et tenacem, propositi virum

“A just man, firm in purpose.” – Horace

Last week my husband brought home from the public library a graphic novel version of The Count of Monte Cristo, originally written by Alexandre Dumas. I picked it up, started flipping through it, and realized that although I have read this book before and remembered the plot in general terms I could not even remember the names of the characters. So yesterday I decided to download a free Kindle version and read it again. Right now I am about halfway through it.

I am sure that when I first read the novel, I did not fully appreciate all of the nuances therein, since I believe that at the time I was still a high school student in the state of Teenage Angst. Naturally, I focused on different aspects of the novel then and viewed it through the sophomoric lens of my own limited experiences. I skipped over the parts and details that I didn’t understand, such as references to French history and its notable figures, culture and quotations from the classics. I was reading the book for fun instead of explicating it for class, after all, so I was more interested in what happened to the characters and the overarching theme of the story than I was in “all that other scholarly minutiae.”

At the time, I did not have convenient means at hand for translating phrases rendered in language foreign to me or immediately researching the names dropped in the narrative. For example: What the heck does this French “ma foi” phrase mean that keeps popping up in the dialogue? (Answer: It’s an interjection that translates to “my faith!” and serves the same purpose as saying “my goodness!” “well!” or “indeed!” would in English.)

Praise be to God for the existence of Google and the invention of touch screens!

Much like the double-edged sword, modern technology can be a wonderful blessing as well as a pernicious curse to humankind.

In any event, in reading the Count of Monte Cristo again I am noticing details in the narrative that as a moon-eyed adolescent I previously glossed over. For example, the scene where King Louis XVIII is reading a poem by Horace, which is in Latin. The king occasionally quotes snippets from this piece of classical literature while his courtiers are trying to convince him of a conspiracy staged by the Bonapartists. One of these Latin phrases struck me as particularly significant after I looked it up: justum et tenacem propositi virum. (In English: the just man, firm of purpose.) This is part of a larger exposition that I feel is pertinent:

“The just man, firm of purpose cannot be shaken in his rocklike soul, by the heat of fellow citizens clamouring for what is wrong, nor by the presence of a threatening tyrant.”

What does it mean to be a “just” man? What did Horace mean by it, and for what reason did Dumas include this excerpt? At first glance, this phrase appears to describe the protagonist Edmond Dantes because it resonates so strongly with his activities; I say “appears” because on a deeper level I feel that it is also somewhat ironic. Edmond Dantes is “rocklike” and “firm of purpose” in seeking vengeance on those who have so cruelly wronged him out of base envy and avarice. True, he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused. He was wrongfully imprisoned for over fourteen years, his hopes and dreams for marriage with Mercedes and a career as a ship captain utterly devastated.

In our heart of hearts, don’t we in 2019 still sympathize with Edmond wanting to strike back at his oppressors? We would wish to do the same as he did if we had the means and the motive. Nowadays we say: “Yes, revenge is bad for you, blah blah blah,” and pay lip-service to this sentiment, but in that culture it was expected and a matter of honor that one would seek vengeance for wrongs done to oneself or to those under one’s protection.

The Count of Monte Cristo certainly raises an interesting question: if we had vast wealth of a hidden treasure at our disposal, how would we use it? We might have these grand and altruistic plans to be magnanimous to the less fortunate, but dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover the impulses of the sinful nature – to punish our persecutors in a way that we feel suits the crime.

Because it is Holy Week, in reading of Edmond’s plight I was struck by an odd parallel to Jesus Christ’s trial and wrongful execution. There two similarities: both are “just” – innocent of any crime – and both are firm in purpose. However, in practice the two men are complete opposites.

For the sake of argument, you could claim that Edmond Dantes is “just” because he is not guilty of the charge of which he is accused: treason. In Old Testament fashion, Edmond seeks an eye for an eye when he escapes the Chateau d’If. By law, the guilty should be punished for their crimes. However, Edmond feels that the legal system falls short and cannot touch his enemies, so he takes the role of judge, jury and executioner upon himself. He is consumed by his desire for revenge and determined not to waver from the path he has chosen. But I have to wonder: is dedicating one’s life to the pursuit of revenge the action of a truly “just” man?

And by the end of the book, did Edmond remain firm in his purpose to avenge himself, or would human mercy sway his “rocklike” resolve?

Jesus Christ was also a just man, firm of purpose. He was not shaken from his resolve to complete his mission of mercy – the very antithesis of vengeance. By rights, we as rebellious sinners all deserve to suffer God’s eternal wrath. That would have been justice. But Jesus was punished in our place. No human being could have predicted that. One would expect an angry God to smite his enemies for daring to lay hands on him. Just as Edmond was wrongfully incarcerated, Christ did not deserve to suffer and die on the cross. But He stayed the course, endured the agony, and emerged victorious. A truly just man, truly firm in His purpose.

Happy Easter everyone…or as they would say on Tehara: have a blessed Resurrection Festival.

In Springtime the Cycle is Renewed

Because I started this blog with my writing “journey” in mind, I suppose I ought to say something about it. The series of novels that I am working on is called the Cycle of Tehara (hence the name of this blog.) Within the Cycle of Tehara are several…ish story arcs. Sub-series, if you will. The story arc that I am currently working on is called the Wyldling series. Not particularly clever, but since I haven’t actually published yet I still have time to think of a better name than “series.”

Originally, my magnum opus was a single novel whimsically and incongruously entitled The Grand Illusion (yes, in honor of the song of the same name by Styx) that I began crafting at the tender age of 13. It turns out the joke was on me; I should have called it the Grand Delusion of a Teenage Girl Writing the World’s Longest Novel. Needless to say, the title I had given it had very little to do with the content of the novel, and nothing in common with the Styx song besides the title. The story itself has gone through multiple versions, revisions and expansions since I had the weird dream that spawned it in middle school.

A few months ago, I realized that The Grand Illusion was shaping up to be a grand behemoth of a tome twice as long as Stephen King’s It and The Stand combined. Nobody is going to read a single book so huge it could be used as a doorstop. I was afraid my epic novel – growing longer and longer every year – would be mistaken for the Encyclopedia Bore-tannica or something of that sort. I am no Leo Tolstoy after all. I am not even a Stephen King (wow, can that man churn out books!) So in the past year, I thought that maybe a trilogy would be a better idea. The 3 books into which I chopped up The Grand Illusion were to be called Wyldling Snare, Wyldling Trials, and Wyldling Deliverance. It turns out those three books were probably still too long for the audience I had in mind for them; the story is told from the point of view of 15/16 year olds, so it naturally follows that teenagers and young adults should be my target audience – right?

Currently, the Wyldling Series as I envision it is most likely going to be 5 or 6 books. The major plot points are mapped out for the entire story arc, but I feel that the novel previously known as The Grand Illusion needs a lot of reworking. As I’ve gained life experience and grown as a person, so has my novel. A woman in her fourth decade views things much differently than a 15 year old girl – or at least she should.

Viewed through the lens of the adult that I had become, my characters were behaving in ways that was ridiculous and unrealistic. Even in a fantasy story, certain things have to make sense – like, why is this teenager allowed to venture into forbidden, dangerous territory? Well, I decided that said teenager wasn’t allowed to do this at all, but that in his own mind he had compelling reasons for doing so, even if he was wrong to disobey and suffered the consequences. Besides all that, the protagonist was acting more like a whiny, angsty teenage girl than the battle-trained youth that he was destined to be.

I definitely felt that I needed to develop the villains into more believable characters, too. There had to be feasible motivations for their actions, other than “I’m crazy evil and I want to take over the world, mwahahaha!” or “Hello, I’m a bloodthirsty monster who wants revenge for some random insult the protagonist said to me off-screen.” Villains have to have some redeemable qualities, or at least be relatable as human beings – even if some of them actually are psychopaths and megalomaniacs. Perhaps some of them are merely going along to get along while others have been duped or trapped into following a certain path.

The Wyldling Series features six to eight individual villains/antagonists – depending on how one defines the term – but only five of them appear for significant amounts of time. Two or maybe three of them are killed off by the end of the series – I’m still trying to decide. One of the main villains is eventually “redeemed” and joins the ranks of the “good guys” by the end of the series. Another villain is not identified as such and remains a mystery until a future story arc.

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. The whole journey is a little confusing to me, too.

I’m still working on the details, and as you know, the devil dwells therein.

God bless, and have a marvelous Holy Week.

Winter, begone with you! Spring is coming! Soon, this iris I planted last year will emerge from the soil…
Could it be that my novel shall also blossom anew?

The Journey Begins

Thanks for visiting!

Spring time brings with it new growth, so I though this would be the perfect time to begin a blog. I plan on becoming a published author, and I have been told that having a website and a blog is something that successful authors do. So…here we are.

This is a writer’s blog, so there will definitely be updates about progress on the novels and other projects that I am working on. I might even post my amateurish character sketches. However, I also plan to mention other things, too. These things might include my family, my religious beliefs, events that I’ve attended, and other assorted life adventures.

My intention is to avoid any political ranting and raving, but I might periodically post my own opinions about relevant news that I have heard and social topics that I touch upon in my novels. My goal is to be as inoffensive as possible. I apologize in advance if something I post offends you. Please let me know if this is the case. Communication goes both ways, after all.

You will most likely see quotes from the Bible and my comments on them, so be prepared for that, as well.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. — Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

I thought that one was kind of appropriate, given that I am embarking on a new adventure. Thank you, God, for my new heart. I desperately needed one.

All righty then. Let us all blast off into space, leaving the solar system via our own personal wormhole, passing stars and strange planets (like the ones I drew in MS Paint, below). Let us begin our journey to Tehara, a planet on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy that bears an uncanny resemblance to the planet Earth…

spacelord