Another day, another story!
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 once wore a short skirt to a prayer meeting. And, I'll get into that in a minute.
For some reason this memory popped into my mind today. Maybe because I was reading Psalm 18 and for some reason something in it struck me as familiar. But then something in the Psalms usually do. The whole - I'm a mess, all is hopeless, help me, help me, help me - God is good - thing. But when I had this memory + thought of blogging it = it came up too personal. I always think like everything is too personal. Introverts by nature usually do. And then I end up telling strangers everything. Or 'near 'bout as we might say in the South.
So - back to the prayer meeting.
It was the first year I was married to Owen and we were going to a sort of Gospel prayer dinner thing for men and their wives with a speaker. The speakers were usually incredible and I enjoyed that part immensely. The speakers would be followed by a short prayer service. Herein lies the story.
On this particular occasion I wore an outfit that in retrospect might not have been the very best for the occasion but then again - it sure wasn't the worst! I had on hose after all and modest heels. I also had on this skirt that was a little short. It was pink pinstripe and I think I wore it with a black turtleneck and it had a matching little jacket. Think Doris Day'ish. But a little shorter. Ok, maybe a little extra shorter. It was however one of husband's favorite outfits on me and our going 'out' if you will was not frequent. The Gospel dinner was an date'ish kind of out. He wore a suit so I wore my suit. He was happy. I was introverted. But happy to be with him happy.
We enjoyed the evening but I noticed a few 'looks' as I was coming back from the restroom to the table. Those kind of oh my, my withering looks. That's probably the first time I thought - hmmm, genius, this might not be the best little suit to wear to the gospel dinner. Husband was all smiles. I suddenly wanted a pair of overalls.
After the dinner, after the speaker, we arrived at that great prayer moment where people would (yes, if you are not from the south and have never been to a gospel type of meeting skip this part) would lay hands on you and pray. I remember distinctly one of those people saying, "God, please let her receive."
And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was because of my skirt. Now, you should know I'm not that tall. My twelve year old niece has more leg than I do. So I couldn't be showing a lot of leg I didn't have. And all that going on back there was in no way hanging out. Still . . . that was their prayer. The people praying were judging me in their offered prayer. As if they needed to intercede on my behalf with God. Oh what testy, troubled waters that is.
They meant well. They really did. But, don't we always. Or, at least frequently. They had no idea what my relationship with God was, the fact that we were on a real, personal basis. Or that during that season in my life I fasted a lot for the state of the whole world. (Which may have been why that skirt looked so good when I think of it.)
How often we look at someone and think they're rich, they don't need prayer. They're poor and they choose to be that way. They're homeless because they are weak. They are guilty, they are illegal, they are - other. Other than me, than us, than our tribe.
I hope that the lesson I learn from that is that when my eyes tend to look at someone and begin to ask God to please let them see the wrong of their ways, that I'll focus more closely on the wrong of mine. That I'll be able to stop praying with my mind, but pray from my heart instead. That I won't be moved to pray for the perfect because they don't exist.
Because trust me, If judgement ruled the day, I would have been stoned a long time ago. And, that I can live with. What bothers me is how many rocks I would have thrown at the innocent.
And that, my friends, is the bona fide truth today.
I am bona fide sick. And been stuck that way for what seems a month. (Cough, cough, cough.) My family is quite sick of me being sick and husband and now, cousin Deb have come down sick and they are trying to pin the blame on me.
"Hey, I tell them, there are other, (cough, cough,) sick people, (cough, cough,) in this world.
And, it's almost Thanksgiving. Which means it's almost Christmas. And, I am so very, happy. Mostly. Really.
Particularly, for an Eyore child. (I have a beautiful little book on my desk - 'Eeyore Be Happy' that sits next to a little pensively smiling stuffed Eeyore courtesy of that great reader Denise Mitchell to remind me to be - happy, happy, happy.)
And while I'm not all Tiggerish crazy happy, in the middle of this messy life and struggling to accomplish all running on a quarter tank of well, I am still pleasantly peaceful. I made it to Florida to gather Mom, her mighty little Scottish terrior Duncan, and her things and return to Nashville. We had an uneventful eight hours or so on the road. No breakdowns. No bad weather. But hours full of stories.
I would ask Mom one question and she would answer. In the quiet, rolling miles, that uninterrumpted space that road trips provide, she was able to fully answer me. To remember things that she hadn't thought about in years. And to take the time to actually finish the story.
These are stories I may never hear again and I try to tap them down to memory, to hold on tight, to help some of them get to the page. My mother is carrying an entire generation before her and I'm thinking how to protect all those tangilble things they saw, they carried, they left behind. I want my grandchildren to know what came not just before them through their parents, and through me, but the before, before. The stories or as Cormac McCarthy might refer to in, The Road as the light.
At my middlin' age of this beautiful between, I have begun to appreciate things in a new light. A grandbaby's giggle or silly dance, my mother watching the sunset or staring at the moonlight. And I'm so aware in the moment that I am standing there with her, holding her hand, staring into the sky that everything has become both now and forever. The moments timeless, and a bit heaven sent.
Except for this perpetual coughing. I think it comes from the pits of hell. And that it's also why God made good Kentucky bourbon.
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.