Understanding My “Why”

I love ideas. I like the strategic and efficient use of resources. I deeply value connectivity and relationships. I love words and people, eye contact and “aha” moments.

I pour these passions into my pursuits. I do it through listening, observing, considering, creating and sharing.

It comes out in all sorts of ways. Some of them, you can find here.

Hearing Myself Think

After a week of rain

I’ve had a lot of negative self talk lately.

A lot of negativity, period.

When I decided to eat gently

without a scolding diet,

and to move around gently

without punishing my form,

some things began to shift.

 

I remembered I no longer have a garden.

Sometimes I stay inside all day,

sitting in a chair

scrolling to no end

farther than a short term task list

getting something (and also nothing) done.

 

I heard myself tell myself,

“You’re too fat for food.” That

I don’t deserve to eat because

I’ve become so soft and round.

That conscious cruelty to me, by me–

I don’t remember hearing it so loud.

 

We’ve had a week of rain;

a terrible fight on our anniversary;

an awkward coupling and too much wine.

And then the sun came out;

it’s sixty-three degrees in June.

I came outside to listen and learn.

I think some things are boiling out.

  • Defensiveness
  • Labels
  • Incongruent Truths

Grace is like a slotted spoon,

Gentleness, a gear in my transmission,

slowing me down long enough

to hear.

After a week of rain

Jacksonville had a record breaking cool snap of dry air and lower temps, unheard of in June.

Makerspaces: Designing an Art Room and Writing Studio

used book store jacksonville

Macaroni stuck to construction paper. The minty taste of glue paste. Rows of crayons with perfectly smooth conical tips and that that little flat end on the tippy top.

Those were some of my first art supply memories. I was born to makers and raised in a creative environment so when I imagine school, those experiences are already late in the game. I don’t remember learning to read because in my memory, I always did. But by second grade I was struggling with math. If it weren’t for oily modeling clay kept in our desks for busy work and Mr. Hedman’s Art Cart, I’m sure I would have come to hate school a lot earlier than I did.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of STEM education, makerspaces are becoming the new trend for libraries and classrooms. In fact, when I searched, “school libraries”, one of the top results was a pinterest page full of project ideas and art supplies to stock a creative makerspace for kids. That gave me a little pang of sadness, remembering the old brick library I first visited as a kid and the many skylit, carpeted book spaces I took my own children to for years…I like BOOKS in my library. But a perfect world has room for both. Making things requires space and supplies.

According to Makerspaces.com:

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.  These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.  A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a makerspace.  If you have cardboard, legos and art supplies you’re in business.  It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.  These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need the critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  They provide hands on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence.

When I designed my own makerspace, I had multi-media work in mind. For one thing, that’s my day job, which I do from home, and work hours will be the dominant use of my space for the several years to come. This meant my desk, it’s position, lighting, computer and related technology had to top the list of priorities. By itself, that’s an office. So what makes my space a studio/makerspace instead of just a boring old grown up office in the back room of my house?

 

  • My large work table. One end is a desk. The other 7 feet is spacious enough to accommodate a sewing machine, drafting mat, and scrapbooking area. I can remove all that and lay out a large canvas. As a table, it can be as versatile as it needs to be.
  • Giant whiteboard. We bought ours from Amazon and it’s classroom size. I carefully plot out my novels and screenplays and had been previously trying to do this on large sheets of paper that came on a roll. Effective but not ideal if I needed to erase and modify anything. The white board is perfect for how I use it now and like the table, if I want to do something else, it’s versatile.
  • A very large bulletin board. Ideas come in bits and pieces. I usually transfer these to post it notes and photos, which make a work space messy fast. The bulletin board is a good solution and gives me an excuse to buy really cute push point pins.
  • 4 large Ikea book cases. Because, BOOKS. They are my friends. I needed them close by. They are also reference material, memory storehouses, and educational material.
  • Lighting. I went with floor lamps, also from Ikea, that can double as video spot lighting. Another example of the power of versatility.
  • A bathroom. Sink, shower, tile…all of these are essential for messier art projects
  • Easels. I have a large one that stands near a window and a smaller one for the table top.
  • Camera tripods
  • Green fabric “green screen”. I got this from the local fabric store. Bright green fabric that can be stretched flat for video projects.
  • Supply closet: acrylic, water, and oil paints; crayons; charcoal and graphite; stack of canvases; a variety of papers; jugs of gesso; sewing notions; costume props; musical instruments
  • Rolling art cart. Also, from Ikea. The top on serves as a “desk drawer”. The bottom two hold paintbrushes and palettes, masking tapes and large clips.

There are a few things on my dream list, like sound panels for better audio editing ability and a recording studio set up. My primary use of my space is computer related and writing, so my makerspace differs from my mother’s (primarily sewing related, with irons and machines and large tables) and my dad’s (primarily wood working, with machinery, rows upon rows of tools and and a spray room for finishing). My children would all prefer tools in theirs and some versatile work counters for cutting stencils. One of my sons dreams of a dark room. While there are several features that can be common, makerspaces have an element of the personal to them that is unique to the artist using them.

The most valued aspect of my makerspace is actually the door. A boundary between the ordinary world and a personal creative space can’t be over-emphasized. Room for thoughts and ideas, room to explore, room to work…that’s defined as much by what it is not as by what it is. This room is not a family room (although family is welcome to visit). It’s a classroom. Not the kitchen. Not an office. Walls and a door are vital. Creative souls will persist in finding ways to carve out space in communal areas but they aren’t ideal.

Here’s some cool additional reading:

The Most Interesting Makerspaces  in America, by Make.com

Very cool makerspaces for kids, by Fatherly.com

This photography feature in the New Yorker on What Goes On in the Artist’s Studio?

This beautiful collection of Famous Workspaces on Tumblr

used book store jacksonville

Photo taken at Chamblain’s Bookmine in Jacksonville, Florida

On Making: Ancestral Creativity

My grandparents in the 50’s, near the start of their adventure of living an ordinary, hard working, creative life.

Heading out my front door as a child I had great choices.  I could turn towards the right through the yard and maze of rose bushes, to the tree house, back fields, or tiger lilies. If I went straight ahead I could climb the pines, skip down the gravel drive, or jump the fence to the horse. And if I turned left I’d pass or enter the barn… the scent of woody of lumber in my dad’s shop and mill and also the concrete cavern of my uncle’s metal shop. If I passed by the barn it would be because he was running the saw (never come up behind a craftsman when the saw is running!) so I was headed for the windbreak, the sawdust pile (a small mountain bigger than the barn) or the dump hidden in the woods of the back pasture. Staying inside meant I’d likely hear either the whirr of my mother’s sewing machine or of her baking in the kitchen.

I come from a family of makers.

I remember pencils behind ears, clipboards on the side tables, the click of my Grandmother’s needles, and rows of triangle eyes on the faces of Raggedy-Ann dolls lined up for sale. I remember meals and clothes made, not bought, the scratch of someone sketching, the rhythmic sound of scissors… harack-harack-harack on the table when she cut out a new pattern. I remember finding my mother’s poems printed out and placed in scrapbooks, her heavy SLR camera, and hours hiding behind bolts of fabric in the store while she shopped.

Every day of my childhood I knew where to find wood scraps, fabric and metal scraps, sewing notions, paint, crayons, glue, paper, hammers, nails, work space, and help. I knew that if you needed something, it’s best to see if you can make it first. I knew that when you have a really good idea for something that people need, they will pay you to make it. If you have an excellent idea that a lot of people will want, you start a business and maybe even get a patent. But also, that most ideas won’t result in profit and that’s not the only reason to pursue them. I learned that work weeks have seven days and that it more than okay for the shop lights to be on after dark. Whatever it took to get the job done. This also included a sacred set of minutes we referred to as, “break time.” I learned that ideas are endless; if one doesn’t pan out, another one will. Just keep going. Yagottawanna.

Making requires space, supplies, time, and ideas.

Making things is a lifestyle, a philosophy, and it’s embedded into my family’s DNA code. I’m not surprised when my sailor-son tells me he wants both an education in higher math and to take over the wood shop. I’m not surprised when my daughter sets out to sew the perfect bra. Yesterday, another son started shopping for welding supplies and the youngest changed his art major. I began a new screenplay, continued work on a pastel and learned a filmmaking trick for work. Pick a minute and I can promise my mom and sister are probably quilting, my dad is probably building, and all of us are juggling more ideas than there is time to explore.

Side note: maybe the reason why we also all have genetically bad necks is because our brains are developed too far to the right. Hmmm….

When my daughter moved out a few weeks ago, I got her room. This space is the first dedicated creative space I’ve had since I started having babies; our houses were always too small and the babies too many for a Room of My Own. But seasons change and in here I now write, draw, paint, dance, research, work, film, edit, dream, think, and plan. Every morning when I come inside, I feel I’m coming home.

It’s nice to no longer vie for space at the kitchen table or to have to pack up mid-project to make room for something else, although that’s better than not making at all. I did, after all, make 5 humans and raise them; motherhood requires creative energy unlike anything else in the world. Those babies were my tribe and I miss our little adventures. Even as demanding as those years were, a creative mind never really stops. Ideas would wend their way through my mind only to be left on scattered scraps of paper, the fallen leaves of thoughts never fully brought into fruition soon composting down into the soil,  becoming food for the next fertile moment I could sneak into the years of responsibility.

I can feel the fertility of ideas in this emptying-nest time.

When I think back on how I was raised, I don’t remember lots of words. I don’t remember lectures, team practices, schedules, screens or even silence. I remember the sounds of industry. I remember shared ideas. I call back to play that looked like work and work that felt like play. I hope I’ve passed it onto my kids…even though as millennials they will remember lectures, schedules, screens and silence. Those great-grands who came for the railroad, who built houses and everything that went inside, those people are in our bones and blood.

We are all the same.

Equal Rights are Human Rights
On the way home from driving the carpool to school today, I was listening to our local public radio station’s morning show, First Coast Connect. They were discussing the ongoing struggle to get Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance updated. This will be the third time the city council has voted on it. It’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workforce and in businesses here– people can be fired or refused basic service for being gay or transgendered. Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida without discriminatory protections. This has impacted which businesses come here and the hiring practices for those already here.
I have a friend who, I like to say, is the brother my parents never game me. I love him very much as well as his husband and the two sweet boys they adopted. Several years ago, after he left Jacksonville for New York and then Massachusetts, I was carping on how much I missed having him nearby and he said, “I’m sorry, I just don’t think Jacksonville is where I should be right now. It’s not where I can raise my family.” At the time he said this, “his family” would not have even been legally recognized here. Gay marriage was still banned here until 2014.
I was thinking about him this morning as I listened. An image came into my mind of him and his family sitting at a table in a restaurant. If I’m understanding things correctly, it’s legal for the restaurant owner here to refuse his family the same service they’d offer mine, specifically because they are a same-sex marriage.
Not because they were loud or disruptive in a way that harassed other guests. Not because they refused to pay the bill. Not because they broke any kind of law. Just because of who they are and how the business owner feels about that.
That is discrimination.
If that happened to them, there is no recourse they could take. Our current ordinance in Jacksonville sides with the restaurant owner to turn away anyone they please simply for who they are. It reminds me of pre-war Germany turning away those with yellow stars although, that was for the Jews. The nazis made gay men wear pink triangles and if they were gay and jewish, two of them like a pink star.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. You are all one….” (Galatians 3:28)
It really turned my stomach. And it stuck with me all day– key clue to, “use my words.” The end of that verse in Galatians is, “…in Christ Jesus.” The opposing group that’s prevented Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance from passing is evangelical christians.
I wonder if those opposing have loved ones affected by discrimination. Have they considered the heartache and impact their position has on actual human beings? Can they remember these are not ideas but real lives being discussed? Do they realize that a culture that legalizes discrimination can simply swing back over to bite them in the ass? Christians have been discriminated against in history. They’ve been fired for who they are. Killed for who they are. I hope the Christian community, of which I am also a part of, sees the irony of the situation and remembers to do unto others as they’d have done unto them.
We live in a country that was built to allow freedoms to all. Human rights are equal rights.
*You can read more about Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance and the upcoming February 14th vote by clicking on the link.
Feel free to share this post or invite your friends to like my page.
Equal Rights are Human Rights

Clarity on My Rules of Engagement on Facebook

Girls Campout Site, Ginnie Springs, Florida

Girls Campout Site, Ginnie Springs, Florida

 

In this place, pictured above, I unplugged for a weekend with friends. Burnt out, frustrated, stressed and frazzled, I leaned into the advice circulating from various resistance groups to acknowledge fatigue. My friends and I set up camp. We built fires and set out elaborate and beautiful food spreads. We poured wine, broke bars of chocolate, and slept late. All of us mothers, we spent rare hours doing nothing. I plunged into that clear spring water and felt it wash away the aches, the muscle knots, and probably the tears. Our unflinching conversations unbraided the threads of habits, hopes, and fears that have been holding us back from who we want to be.
The internal clarity gained rivaled my view down through the blues into the caves. I’m leaning on it today throughout discouraging national news and throughout the realization of how many friends prefer to know me without knowing what I think. Redrawing boundaries and rules of engagement with the world was a little overdue. It was meaningful for me to re-realize that some benign contact points empower more direct energies in other places. I think I can be more effective in areas I care deeply about and use my voice and my words with more precision than I could before the insights gained on this trip.
“It is good for me to cling to God,” reads one of my favorite liturgical lines, “and to place in Him the hope of my salvation.” It reminds me of hunkering down, digging in– of the steady work of potato farmers in the field placing one foot in front of the other. Eyes down. Know yourself, know your priorities, do your work (and do it well). These are good boundaries for me to have.
*photo taken at Ginnie Springs, Florida

Editing My Novel: The Value of Taking a Break

When finished the second draft of my novel, The Perfect Traveler, I had a sludge of slow cooked emotions in my pot. Relief, pride, discouragement, frustration, embarrassment, achievement….never has the classic writing advice to, “put it away in a drawer for awhile and forget about it” felt like such a pressure value to me. I took it to heart. The print out was bound, set aside, and forgotten. The intention was 2 months.

I read other fiction, focused more intently on work and family, and when my novel occurred to me I’d jot down a note on a sticky pad, slap it to the manuscript, and close the drawer again.

Shirley Jackson has nearly become a patron saint. I discovered her writing during this season (how did I ever get this far in life without knowing her?) and am still devouring her canon. I wrote a short story to give away to friends, now an annual tradition of mine. I debated never writing again. For three of those weeks, I didn’t.

I didn’t wonder when to pick it up again. Whenever too much time passes without writing, a panicky anxiety presses on my chest. That rose in my throat the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I’ve read somewhere that anxiety is to writers what the wind is to a storm: all that churning spurs the action. It seems essential. I saw a phrase that goes, “write like you’re running out of time” and thought yes, that’s it exactly.

Blackwing Palomino sharpened and ready for the editing ahead.

Blackwing Palomino sharpened and ready for the editing ahead.

I have a new Blackwing Palomino sharpened and ready to go and clarity on the next few steps. Most importantly, the thing I was worried the most about– length and simplicity of plot– has been answered. Those aren’t necessarily hinderances, let alone the hallmarks of failure I feared they were.

It’s as if someone came and shoveled away all the snow that covered my path.

Why am I giving a short story as a gift?

Every day I milk a large, verbose cow.

There was a little song my kids learned when they were preschoolers: “What can I give to the king, what can I give to the one who has everything.”  It’s got a contagious earworm of a tune and a sentiment that gets under my skin anytime I’m like a preschooler: feeling small and overwhelmed that anything I could offer up would possibly be of any worth or value. Kings and God-metaphors aside, that little song hits to the center of every creative person’s wrestling mat. Is what we make any good? Is it gift worthy? Would anyone ever want it?

The song’s verse goes on to say we can offer, “a heart that is open wide, a life that has nothing to hide.”

Funny, that. One short poetic children’s lyric lays out the angst of anyone involved in the pursuit of an authentic, open, honest, humble, true life.

It’s not easy keeping a heart open wide. It’s not easy telling the truth about one’s life. And yet, that’s our greatest gift as creative human beings.

For me, that means living the mantra, the line that works equally well for meditation and whining toddlers alike: USE YOUR WORDS.

I can give words. I can use words. I can craft words. It’s how I was made and the older I get, the more I suspect its why I’m here.

Which brings me to last year, the ramp up to Christmas 2015. I wanted to offer something handmade as a gift and that brought me to words. A poem? An essay? Anne Lamott suggests in Bird by Bird that writers have many ways to share their writing beyond traditional publication. She says writers who feel compelled to write should simply do so.

I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway.

But I also tell [my students] that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. Writing this way is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.

And, after you milk the cow, what do you have?  A bucket full of milk. If you do it every day, you have enough milk to drink, to make cheese, soap, butter, chocolate…you start having things to give away.

So, I did last year, I gave away some words. It felt good. Some friends enjoyed my story. One said I didn’t go deeply enough into the psyche’s of my characters. That was helpful feedback for a character writer. I worked hard this year on craft. I finished the 2nd draft of my novel Work In Progress and then took a 2 month break to read. Another story spilled out.

What is this year’s holiday gift?

My 2016 annual holiday free short story gift.

My 2016 annual holiday free short story gift.

This year’s short story gift is about Marjorie James, a woman in her late 70’s reorienting herself after sudden and unwanted change. When her new husband starts stealing her joy, Marjorie discovers her spine.

“A glimpse into an older generation– I think I know these characters!”  -D. Hesterman

My story is a free download, available via email. I hope readers will share it with their friends, will give it away, will pass it on. You can do so by signing up here, by sharing the link, or by sharing the email once you’ve received it.



Is Fat Loss Impossible?

I’m careful about the messages I repeat in my head because I believe that we can think things into reality. So, I don’t like saying, “I just can’t burn fat.” However, my recent running streak and radical lifestyle changes in order to reduce my fat percentage and return to my usual adult weight have been so stunningly stagnant that it seems that thought just might be true. There’s a lot of truthful facts below and some of it may be TMI. However, this project is a science experiment of sorts to me, more about health than vanity, and simply can’t be expressed without the honest and transparent facts.

Before:

Me and Savannah, Running Buddies

Me and Savannah, Running Buddies

Starting weight in June: 179.

Normal adult weight without being 8 months pregnant: 155.

The 30 pound weight gain came on suddenly 3 years ago, along with migraines, thyroid symptoms and one doctor’s opinion that the beast chasing my heels is MS. Another several at Mayo reminded me that’s a subjective diagnosis with symptoms that can often be managed by lifestyle.

Goal: become fit and strong again, stave off auto-immune disease, lose 10-15 lbs, and fit into my favorite blue dress again

Age: 42

Perimenopausal symptoms: 3 years. Having 2-3 periods a year, thicker in the belly, and gray hair coming in fast. Blood work does not indicate perimenopause. I am sometimes anemic.

Previous dietary experiments tried, most under a doctor’s care, the ones treating my Hashimoto’s and hormone imbalances:

  • The Virgin Diet, 6 miserable months: no chicken, dairy, eggs, legumes, olives, gluten, or sugar.
  • Gluten free: 1 year
  • no alcohol: frequently, each time between 2-8 weeks
  • Low carb: 6 months

I take a Thyroid pill, an acid blocker, and a vitamin D supplement.

I already eat a primarily whole foods “diet” that avoids chemicals and artificial ingredients. I don’t drink soda. Before June I almost never ate breakfast and usually averaged 1200 calories a day. I’m active but work in a job with a lot of sitting and workouts have been sporadic.

In June I started a running streak because running has always meant excess weight slid off my body easily. I have never had an issue shedding weight before the last 3 years. The goal: run for 100 days, watch my food intake, try to eat clean, and maintain a 500 calorie deficit. I do sometimes eat candy, I love good food and will always eat bread and wood-fired pizza, and I want a moderate life.

Days 1-50

I averaged 3 miles a day in the summer heat, 1300 calories a day, and with additional yoga work outs about 3 times a week.

Day 50 check in: weight 179, clothes all fit the same.

I did a Facebook Live as part of the challenge to do something new. I shared my calorie targets and got a heap of feedback from weight lifters and fitness buffs who weren’t starving all the time like I was. I decided to try a new approach.

I got a food scale for My Fitness Pal, found a protein shake that didn’t have nasty-ass Stevia in it (BioChem Chocolate), and had my body fat/muscle mass calculated.

35% fat, 16% muscle, 47% water. That means according to the charts, I’m obese.

Days 50-100 of #100runningdays

averaged 1 mile of running with 1 hours of weight lifting using Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer on Bodybuilding.com.I had to learn how to do most of the movements, we joined a gym, and I have an awesome best friend who is doing the same program with the opposite goal: she’s trying to gain.I calculated my TDEE, which raised my calorie count to 1800. I started tracing macro’s with high protein, lower carbs and fat. 5 meals a day, always breakfast, and sometimes I have to have a cheeseburger or I’m going to cut someone. I’ve never had hunger this primal.

Day 100:

weight 179. Clothes all fit the same. Body percentages all the same.

Non-scale changes: 2 periods in 50 days. Noticeable changes to my metabolism. Hormonal fluctuations feeling like 10 years ago. Running longer distances without walking. Very energetic and feeling strong.

Favorite lesson learned: to make time for my health every single day. I didn’t take any days off during this streak but there were 3 days where my “run” was actually a timed session of running in place. Those were days when family demands were just too high to take an hour to go run. But it was interesting to see that family was the ONLY thing that pushed it out. I was able to move everything else in my life around enough to make regular windows for self-care and fitness. That felt so healthy!

Post running streak: a fitness trainer suggested cutting my calories back to 1500 while keeping the protein and fat high, carbs low during this fat-burning time. I added in high-intensity cardio intervals 5 times a week and a long run with a friend one day a week. Protein target for macro’s is 140, Fat is 60, Carbs are 80.This is my eating plan right now, except for one week I took off all exercise and controlled eating in order to rest. I had some french fries. A few times. And, I had some fun with bourbon.

1 month later:

weight 179. Body percentages all the same. Clothes fit the same. 3rd period since the return of them in August; the healthiest cycles I’ve had in years. Hair no longer falling out. Health is good. Lifting progressively heavier and running longer. No headaches.

Plan for the future: go for a year to see how and if things change. #summertosummer. Maybe by June my body will have readjusted to the healthy patterns.

I started a 30 day plank challenge and on my first day, blew my expected ability by over a minute and a half. That was fun. When I posted some thoughts on FB I got a lot of encouragement and support, all very consistent that this non-movement of the metrics isn’t uncommon.

Right now:

2 Minute Plank

2 minute plank, Day 1 of the challenge, after doing Day 40 of Jamie Eason Live Fit and 30 minutes of HIIT cardio.

 

He Seems to Me an Anti-Christ.

Is Donald Trump the AntiChrist?

The following is something I wrote a few weeks ago, right after the news broke about Donald Trump’s, “I grab them by the pussy” comments on a hot mike. The momentum of the outrage has since subsided and the talk is now more about this horrible election cycle coming to an end, Standing Rock, the Cubs winning the World Series, and cute Halloween costumes.I have since heard many church going, bible believing Christians say they are voting 3rd party or for the Democratic ticket because voting for Trump goes against everything they know about love, faith, trust in God, and community. However, the thoughts I wrote weeks ago are still relevant to me and feel important for me to express.  Yesterday I saw one adult woman verbally abuse her sister online while using the evangelical position and bible as her rational for cruel shaming. I live in an area with crowded with Trump signs and evangelical bumper stickers. I spoke with my Dad over an uncle I’d distanced myself from because with the same lips he spews vitriol towards women, justifies sexual assault, and encourages I use my baptism name instead of my given name because it’s more “Christian.” Gratefully, my Dad understands and he validated my concern over why men like that don’t feel safe to be around but I think he’s in the minority. The general attitude is, “get over it. Trump is better than her.” 

Dear Church-going Republicans Voting For Trump,

I still hear your voices in my head: Sunday School teachers, deacons, choir directors, family, pastors, friends. Love one another. Love your neighbor. Be kind. Be in the world but not of the world. Go against the culture—this is not your home. God is in control always—bigger than the government or the elections or any trial or tribulation. Marriage is sacred—even after infidelity. Forgive. Measure your skirt length for modesty. Don’t tempt men. Don’t have sex outside of marriage. Don’t watch R rated movies or associate with crude people. Be a person of your word. Make sure your word means something. Manners matter. Pursue godly leaders. “You are the light of the world.”

And now you are protecting a sexual predator.

I used to think church was a safe place, protected from sexual predators and the objectification of women. This largely in part because so much time and attention was given to defining what righteousness looks like. Anything or anyone not adhering to the standard was cast out, right? I saw girls reprimanded when their skirts were too short or their clothing was too tight. I saw boys denigrated for having hair that was too long. Posture was important, tucking in shirts, having a pure countenance— this was all part of setting a good example. We were encouraged to stand out at school—carry our bibles and pray at the flagpole. Refuse to participate in any kind of cultural fun—proms, dances, jokes, the “in” crowd. Be in the world and not of it.

I know you from the inside out. I know this with hymns still memorized in my head. I know this from crackers and koolaid in the nursery, through high school bible clubs, through my virginal wedding, to the baptisms of my children. I’m From You.

I’ve known what you stood for longer than I’ve known Who I Am.

When I left, like many others have, I left your rules in pursuit of love—God had become so small and boxy, so clearly defined and so disconnected from creation. I’d become so set apart that I could no longer function in the world around me. I now attend a church with an ancient tradition, an emphasis on listening and serving, and a willingness to embrace mystery. We don’t drill things down verse by verse to the most right answer and I like that. God is bigger than we can explain. I’ve become a better friend and listener, more open minded towards people who aren’t just like me, and I’m closer to the healthy person I know the creator would want me to be.

Even though I no longer agreed with an evangelical right wing position, I thought I was the one who changed.

But it seems now it’s okay for you to Hate. “Love your neighbor” means everyone except a few kinds of people and especially one in particular. Love your neighbor unless her name is Hilary Clinton. Then it’s okay to hate. You vilify this She-Devil so thoroughly that hating her becomes the justification for something else: an excuse for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is your chosen candidate to lead the country you used to call the City on a Hill. Your new standard-bearer has absolutely no political experience and a very complicated business resume but you believe this man will protect the unborn, make America wealthy again, stock the supreme court full of conservative judges, and protect American interests into the coming generation. He won’t follow a teleprompter but many have said he will appoint wise advisors. Most importantly, he will beat the She-Devil into extinction.

He’s where you’ve placed your hope. Even for those who don’t like him, they hate her more. Hate is now justifiable. Forget any righteous indignation over the reasons why; her face, form, clothing, voice and very being is enough to create recoil and he’s the antidote for your vitriol.

Donald Trump didn’t just happen to your party. He isn’t some Caesar you’ve been told to render something to; he’s the majority of the GOP’s chosen one.

Here’s the thing: once you endorsed his behavior by refusing to hold him accountable, you rendered yourselves and your cause irrelevant. If church isn’t safe from sexual predators then who should go? Remember when the Catholics protected the predatory priests? Remember the Baptists who protected Bob Gray, Darrell Gilyard, and a host of others? They sheltered sexual predators because they refused to reject men who violated the bodies of others. They did it because they felt their end goal justified whatever means it took to get there. You are doing it now by voting for Donald Trump.

Which means, you don’t stand for anything. You stand against someone upon a foundation of hatred. God isn’t in control—that’s only true if your candidate wins. Manners don’t matter and neither do standards—as long as your candidate opposes Hilary, he’s fine. Or, maybe not fine—but if he apologizes and goes a few days between running his mouth again then he’s fine enough to buy some time so someone can assemble a bunch of more accusations and quotes taken out of context to remind the world of the She-Devil on the other side. Enough time to deflect blame towards the culture, the media— You aren’t really going to hold him accountable as long as she’s his opponent.

You’re choosing him on purpose. Politics aside, in so doing, you are sending the message that sexual assault behavior is okay. Someone can live that way and still be elected to the highest office in our land and will do so with your help. You’re in the world and of the world so much now that ironically, it’s the non-religious community that cries out against this danger more. At least at work, Donald Trump would be fired.

Here’s the sad end to those twisted means:

Women and children are safer outside the church than in it.

The sheep have chosen the wolf over their shepherd.

 

Recommended reading for anyone who takes a child to church:

Tim Gilmore- Devil in the Baptist Church

Author Tim Gilmore reading from his book, “The Devil in the Baptist Church.”

* Featured Image on the front page for this post is from  Daniel 7:8, about the beast known as the AntiChrist- “I considered the horns….and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking boastful, arrogant things.”

How Long Should a Novel Be? (and other anxious doubts)

writing

This weekend marked an enormous milestone for me: I completed the first working draft of my novel.

I did not celebrate.

In fact, I cried.

Here’s why.

writing

Set up and digging in for a marathon weekend of writing my novel, “The Perfect Traveler”

I’ve been working on this story for a year now and finished the first structural draft last fall. It had a different working title then- “Where Do We Go From Here?” but a friend of mine has a happy musical number of that same name and it threw off the sound in my head. My story isn’t necessarily happy. It’s a psychological love story between two travelers and it spins off an idea I got from the recent Amazon Kindle ad campaign #haveKINDLEwillTRAVEL. It sometimes gets quite dark. So I changed the title. I also scrapped the back half of the draft last May.

My goal was to get a solid second draft of, “The Perfect Traveler” crafted by the end of September so that I could have a cleaned up third draft ready to show to a professional editor by the end of the year. I hadn’t yet decided if I wanted to try and pitch it to Amazon or not (because it’s fun throwing a pebble into a gianormous ocean to see the ripple effect, right?) or if I just want to self-publish and consider it measurable progress towards my lifetime goal of being a successful novelist.

I take goal setting seriously.

I also take my family, full-time employment, friends and a host of other projects (like #100runningdays and #storyswatch) seriously. The calendar was racing past. I ticked off the squares. I saw the holiday decor hit the stores. Someone threw out there were only 12 more Saturdays until Christmas. I broke into hives of anxiety. I was getting close to a full-on freak-out of failure. And then, miraculously, this weekend opened up.

My kids went to see their dad for the first visit in a long while. My husband went to visit his brothers for a football fest. Three whole days opened up. It was the parting of the Red Sea of Obligations for me to be home alone and write. This. Was. My. Chance.

As you can see in the photo above, I was well fortified. Twizzlers, a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a meatball pizza from my favorite brick oven place, Sour Patch Kids, and coffee. I cleaned the house first (can’t write with a dirty sink) and I shut off all the social media. I hid my phone. As they say, I decided to, “put my butt in the chair and write” until that draft was complete, story told, ready to print and mark up.

6 hours on Friday, 14 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday. I could feel the momentum build. Then, my butt went numb. The deeper I got into the story, the more I was loving it. This is meaningful to me because a few years ago I abandoned a manuscript at the 75% mark after coming to loathe it. This one has good juju. I love my characters. I love seeing the progress I’ve made in cutting unnecessary words. My husband came home as I was finishing the second-to-the-last chapter and I hollered, “Baby! You’d better be ready to celebrate because I’m going to make this deadline!”

Context clue: I get frothy about celebrating milestones. I make them up and I make a big deal out of achieving them. My birthday lasts a full month, my projects all get hashtags, and I rejoice over baby steps.

And then, there it was: the final word at the end of chapter 22. I’d told the story from start to finish. Can we say I’d looked forward to that moment for my entire cognizant life? Yes, we can. It was after dark on Sunday night, the pizza and wine were gone, and I’d hid the rest of the Twizzlers from the kids. Everyone came home. Out of time, I told Scrivener to compile and took a look at the word count.

25,000 words.

Nanowrimo lathers writers into 50,000 word drafts in a month. Standard novels have a suggested length of 80,000. There are notable exceptions like Harry Potter’s bloated lengths and Hemingway’s brevity for Old Man and the Sea. But, for average Jo March’s like me, we have to follow the standard rules of publishing.

I’m really short on words. It’s probably the first time in my life I can say that.

Cue the tears and self-doubt. I wrote harder than I’ve ever written in my life this weekend on something I want more than almost any other life accomplishment. Writing comes right after my kids. Maybe I just don’t have the chops to tell a story well at that length. I have other stories that are long; Nano-drafts that sit near 100k of pure crap. But this time I was sparse on purpose, trying to write clean. An editor will still need room to chop. Doubling my word count is essentially re-doing the entire previous year. It’s like telling the marathon runner, “now turn around and run back.” Most would probably walk away.

Today I’ve worked on processing. My daughter sagely suggested that rather than try to overwrite scenes I worked hard to tell sparsely but completely, I should simply try to add in 25 more scenes. My good friends suggested I take note on the devastation I’m feeling and remember that it’s useful. They threw out titles that are beautifully told in fewer words. A few suggested its a novella. Another said maybe Amazon would even prefer a novella so it can be pitched as a quick travel read on the plane. (One can hope.)

I sent it to print. I’ll be taking Stephen King’s advice later today. My draft, which I still feel so proud and protective of, that I love so very much, will be put into a drawer and set aside for a few weeks. I’m going to read, ruminate, work, keep up my projects, and let some insight steep.

I want my story to be whatever length it needs to be.