And so it has begun. The road trip. The book tour. The seeing people on the road. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook their are more photos than I can post here but I am moved by every single soul I meet along the way. That includes the strangers, the surprises.
I grabbed Little Miss Sunshine and hit the road. (She's pictured here at a writer's hideaway in Oxford, MS before my visit to Square Books. Can you tell she's smiling. Well, she is. ) For those who haven't followed years of road trips and book tours Sunshine is the name I gave to a carry-on bag I purchased years ago for a book tour. It was me going very against type because I normally wear black on black with a side of black. Carry a black bag. And a black suitcase. I was in a professional luggage years ago preparing for book tour and had decided I would invest in a piece of luggage that would survive the miles ahead of me. Something with those magical 360 wheels that glided and rolled and zippers that refused to be broken. A hard case worthy of a few hard miles. I was checking out with a black bag when I turned and looked up and saw this multi colored case on high display in the corner of the store. "Wait!" I said - "I think - I want to see that one." They took her down, I rolled her around. Contemplated color. That wild splash of color. And thought - yeah, she's going with me.
My journey with Little Miss Sunshine as I named her started and we went coast to coast to coast. Airline security smiled when they saw her coming. Passengers commented. Hotel clerks. She brought sunshine wherever she went. Eventually, the metal started sticking out of the edges of the handle, her paint peeled off. She got battered, worn, weary. Just like me. It took years but I finally put her in the back of the closet. Ordered a set of three white metal cases one Black Friday super sale on line. They arrived. I looked at them suspiciously. They didn't even blink at me. I thought - well, I'll just cover them with travel stickers. Places I've been and others I've longed to see. I took them on one trip to Residency. Crammed with too much stuff, too many books, things to stay warm. Their wheels drug a little bit. They didn't have the - dare I say it - magic of Little Miss Sunshine. And they didn't smile at me from the corner of a hotel room when I went to bed at night in a strange city miles from home. They. Did. Not. They also turned out to be the bane of my existence when I had to end up on a Greyhound Bus in between cities that was delayed for a day and that is another travel story entirely. One I've written but not published. You cannot spend days in a Greyhound Station or on the bus with three white suitcases, a laptop bag, and a purse. If only I had just little Miss Sunshine and My Backpack we would have been in fine shape.
BACK to - the moment at hand. It was time to hit the road for Confessions of a Christian Mystic Road trip. I pushed those white suitcases to the corner of the room, reached far back into the closet and drug out the battered, metal baring, paint peeling old friend. Little Miss Sunshine rides again.
THE MAGIC OF THE MOMENT
Amazing things happen on the road. Surprising things. People come into your life that you weren't expected. With it, they bring their stores. There is the conference of crossing lives that doesn't happen unless we are out on the road, out of comfort zones, our normal agenda's. It brings to mind so many stories after so many books and so many years. Taxi drivers in New York who told me stores about how they arrived, where they came from. About what they read to their children. Sherlock Holmes comes to Mind. A taxi driver told me of reading the series to his daughter when she was young and for the rest of their lives he called her Sherlock and she called him Watson. Those are the kinds of stories you pick up on the road. The power of real lives.
I stopped at a rest stop to use the rest-room and get right back on the road but when I was walking to my car an old man was standing outside is car, maybe he could have been my Daddy's age if he'd be living now. He had a metal arm, wore a cap that showed he was a Vet, been in the service, served maybe more than just a few years for certain. He still had that air of military on him. Of having served. And as I tried to walk right past him and hurry to the car my feet pulled up to a sudden stop. I mean, full on stop. I sort of just stood there looking at him and said So, how are you doing today? The sun was shining, the sky blue, the miles ahead of me piling up by the minute and me - as is my usual - already falling behind. Already with more to do than time and space allow. He was smoking a cigarette and paused and smiled, surprised. What I didn't say was thank you for your service. That might have been implied. He said, What brings you out on the road on a pretty day like today? So I told him. Book tour. Got a book. Doing a thing.
So you're a writer?
That I am, sir.
Is that a fact? My, my.
And then we talk a bit. He's waiting on his daughter. She just had a baby and they were coming back from Nashville headed home to Memphis. The baby had been premature he said. Not but a few pounds. But now - "He's all the way up to twelve pounds. Just had his checkup. He's doing fine."
So glad to hear it. I dug around in the car. Found my reading copy of Confessions. Signed it for him and passed it on. Then headed on down the road. Because. We have one life, our stories, this Divine moment of compassion and consideration and a moment, just a moment to reach each other. To whisper those words, All is well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
And we are not alone.
Peace and love to you and yours. Me and Little Miss Sunshine got to get on down the road.
That's what I wrote about in my newsletter that just went out a few days ago. That if you feel like you've gotten off to a sluggish start for the New Year instead of kicking open the doors of your life with guns blazing on photon torpedo speed ready to kick some procrastinating, unorganized, unhealthy choices out the door but instead you are still in bed reading this on your little blue thing-y with a blanket over your head - hey, man - no worries. I swear. January is the getting ready, fix-in to, month. Who can come out blazing every year in this kinda cold? Not me. I'm just trying to survive and clicking my heels together like madness saying, Magnolia, Magnolia, send Spring right over.
But I have hopes that February will settle me in with a hope of March and then green things will be sprouting and I want to be ready for the sprout, like short sleeves so maybe I'll consider picking up these barbells by the desk and curling a few. A do-over, start over, begin again month. That's what it is so let me help you take the pressure of your goals to perfection. We ain't gonna get there. Better? yes, we can all be better at SOMETHING. Be it patience with our children, parents, spouses, and cohorts. But sometimes, patience with ourselves is truly in order. And, I only say that because I need it.
Recently, I started tracking my time the way some people track their coins. Writing down exactly what I'm doing at a given time or how long it took me to finish that newsletter and get it out. (Hours and hours - not the minutes or one hour I thought it would be.) It gives me a better sense of how many words I can get down and how long it takes me to edit interviews for Clearstory Radio or produce the show. And how much time a person say, maybe could spend, say looking for cool little things that writers would like on Etsy - (It's amazing what's out there!) But then I start wondering how many languages I could speak if I didn't watch three episodes of Burn Notice back to back with Husband but hey - we missed Season 7 so we're trying to catch up.
Do - overs.
Some people say they wouldn't change a thing. God bless those birds. I'm not one of them. I would have flossed more. Worried less. Studied physics earlier because there is something about time travel, string theory, particles and atoms and . . . this electric current we call life that is mind-blowing interesting to me. But then so is astronomy (yes, I'd take a trip i a space ship - but hey - only if I volunteered!) and movie making, and writing and . . .
And I'm right back to writing. And thinking that no matter what choices I would have made deferently, it would have led to me writing. And that some of the best time I can possibly spend is rocking my youngest grandbaby (when I can catch him because he is a new story in the making) or riding in the car with my Mother through the cold country-side and listening to her tell stories. And watching one of my husband's favorite stories with him. Or having a Margarita with my sister and sharing stories. Of our children, of our past, of our future. Of laughing with Cousin Deb and our 'remember when's'. And all my do-overs turn to nought. Because even though I might have tidied the rough edges of my life, it might have cost me a fortune in the good graces, the experiences (even from the hard knocks) and an untold number of stories made and shared and still being written.
It's the do-over month. But what I think I really want to do on the cusp of this cold, January morning, is ride into the New Year with a hope for New possibilities and complettions. Think I'll pull up my boots, and tell a few stories.
(Please join me with a great host of wonderful writers at Books Alive in Panama City, Florida February 1 on the FSU campus. I'll be speaking at 9
One of the problems of being a writer is the fact that you are always writing. In your head. But not always getting it down on paper. Or the screen. Or posted.
As I was living out my days during the holidays I kept thinking - I should post this on Facebook, twitter, blog. But then I was in the middle of it so I kinda had my hands full and I don't seem to be a twitterpath like my friend author Shellie Rushing Tomlinson so I simply live and think. A lot. And on some slower moments, write and share about it.
Christmas dinner this year at our house was served by Cosco in the form of finger foods. And lots of them. I swore to people it felt like I had JUST washed and put away the Thanksgiving dishes which consisted of ham, turkey, dressing, pies, cakes and more - and more! So I bolted on the Christmas dinner. The trays kept coming, the presents were opened and husband later told me, "There were 11 people, three dogs, and two cats in here." He cracks me up this man of mine.
Thanks to that same good man we had a roaring fire in the fireplace and for just a moment the carnage under the tree of wrapping paper and boxes was piled up high. Not big presents, mind you. Just tiny things for everyone. But it was the together that was my greatest blessing. Our little house overflowed with Mom, and Sister and the Niece and nephew, son and daughter-in-law, and the youngest Michael and Damon otherwise known as - the Charmings AND cousin Deb from Florida. I kept wanting to stop all the festivities to say wait, I am thankful, I am thankful, I am ever so thankful but between the baby and platters coming and going and dogs to chase down and cats to catch it was just the right amount of our family crazy. So I was never able to stop it all for a formal benediction. But there was a perpetual one playing in my heart.
And it continues as we have made our way for a few days to the coast to see our Adorables. It's so good to hear their laugher in the house. So their beautiful Mom is cooking our dinner and son and husband are building something and the girls are playing games from Santa and I am thinking how rich this time is with moments worth living.
I hope wherever you are that your most high, holy days were full of family and laughter and food and peace and light and all the good things that come from living a simple life.
The photo? - Well, who can't love a kid and her camel sharing a good laugh? :)
I miss the Halloween I used to have as a kid. So does my mother. She decorated the front yard, put on spooky music, dressed up and played the piano. The sidewalks were full. Trick or treat was a family affair and it went on for hours.
Every year she continues to buy candy "just in case" but the neighborhood has changed. The children have grown and moved away. And let's face it - Halloween in many places has become either taboo or confusing. No one knows what to do anymore. Trunk or treat? Say what? Go to the mall? Wander Wal-mart in costume?
Add to it this year our weather became severe so many cities postponed the trick or treat event until Friday night. But some didn't. Our's was one of those NOT officially moving but so many other cities in our county had that it was just confusing. Some die-hard enthusiasts stood out on their front porches, homes decorated from yard to roof-top to meet the occasion. Them in costume and candy galore. I know because we drove past them, the wind howling, the Charmings in the backseat and me trying to suggest McDonalds for treats. It wasn't a fit night our for man or monkey.
So last night, in an effort to salvage the event for the children we piled in cars and went to my sister's neighborhood. Some neighbors were out in force, sitting on porches, candy within arms reach. We hit a few houses with the monkey running down the middle of the empty street turned loose and full speed. Do you know how long it takes a kid to learn to walk up the steps, knock on a door and ask for candy? One big brother ahead of him ahead of him and his two older cousins behind him trying to catch him and keep up with him all night.
My sister's house was in full holiday swing. Decorations, Party trays, and music. It was all downright festive. Even we Eeyore's put on our dancing shoes. So our usual Halloween door-to-door 'till you drop and carry home fifty pounds of chocolate routine was replaced by a little family party. And the monkey? How was his 2nd Halloween? All he knows it that for some reason we costumed like crazy, visited lots of friendly neighbors who liked to share, and made merry. And that he was born to dance to Motown Sound. He was captured and enraptured and baby has moves. (All attempts to upload video here have failed.)
Do I miss those Halloween's of the sixties? The ones that looked like the street scene in ET where every child in the world is on the sidewalk and in costume. You bet I do. But tradition is a funny thing. It carries on in it's own way. It evolves with the times, with the season, and with the circumstance. To me the value is in the power of story, of the family being together, and of the memories we make that matters most of all.
I'm back. And my brain feels both blessed and a bit bruised maybe from the recent SIBA trip. (See Radio page) I have had the extreme honor and privilege of interviewing - which for Clearstory is more like chatting with good friends with authors attending the SIBA trade show. The list is too long to type here without running out of time. It included some of my all time favorite authors like Elizabeth Gilbert and Lee Smith, favorites for a number of reasons like Joshilyn Jackson who has known me since college and the beginning of good words, and great new discoveries.
But - right now looks like me staring out the window at the rain and thinking - I need to make a doc appt for a check up. I need to write 5000 words today. I need to edit interviews from SIBA, upload, check social media to check on a the illness of a friend's husband, make professional appts about professional things, write a friend, call my Mom and walk her through using her smart phone, pick up medicine for me and the dog, cook dinner, blog, and pray and walk and breathe, and plan my funeral. (I'll save that for an upcoming blog but I'm not dying any faster than I know of - it's just a southern thing.) And complete a few interviews about an upcoming event in Panama City Beach next week. Which means I need to pack. Which means I need to shop because I am out of decent clothes to wear in public and my jeans from Walmart most likely won't cut it for this event. (I'm not a shopper unless it's for tech toys, purses from Italy, or Channel perfume. And the rest of my fun shopping is from flea markets, yard sales and Goodwill.)
Why are we all so crazy busy? Because I know it's not just me. It seems to be everyone I know. But the fact is - as Celia Rivenbark says, I'm living the good life, baby - because I am. I get grand baby hugs and kisses. And I get to talk to you, and to authors I love and you love, and to promote their work. And on my very, good days I work in a letter to a friend, a little treadmill time, and I write a few 1000 original words.
On my worst days where I don't meet any of my lofty goals, overdraft my checking account by 32 cents, lose something important on the way to the coffee pot (who can do that!?!) and be a total mess all day, I still manage to say a prayer for a stranger that crosses my path. An imprint of a face, of a name, of a something about someone that I may say nothing more to than How are you? But by God I mean it. And I think in the end - that's what makes all the difference in the world.
Peace to you as you go about living your sloppy, beautiful, messy life. We're living the dream, baby. Living the dream!
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.