Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mirror Musings

Some of my deepest thoughts and most significant spiritual awakenings occur during my morning ritual to make myself presentable to the world . . . cleansing, moisturizing, make-up, hair . . . mirror time. When I think about this interesting juxtaposition, I find evidence of God's sense of humor. I hear God saying, "If you insist upon this shallow vanity, you'll have to tolerate My intrusion, reminding you that physical beauty is not your life's purpose, honoring Me is."

"Lord, don't you see?  It's my physical insecurity that initiates this daily ritual."

"My child, I created you. You cannot hide from Me beneath make-up or fancy clothes. You can hide parts of yourself from other humans. You can even hide from yourself. But you are fully transparent to Me. I understand your fears and anxieties. I am aware of your perceived flaws and your true limitations. Only when you are real with Me can you be authentic with others and, ultimately, true to yourself. Wear your mask, if you must, but let My love indwell and transform you. I will help you march boldly forward, facing each new day with courage and hope."

Now I keep a journal nearby. An empty page lies on the bathroom counter, ready for these unpredictable interruptions to my daily toilette--slather, dip, tap, swirl, buff. I pause to feverishly record precious insights before they are lost forever. I fear that once I leave this mirrored wall, life will intrude, and God's silent messages will float back to heaven, never to visit again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I need other women in my life. We "get" each other in ways to which men just can't relate. We can carry on actual conversations that don't involve sports or cars or "Star Trek."

I dearly love my husband of forty-four years, but we still don't speak the same language. Each of us has learned to cope with the fact that we understand only half of any given conversation, but it has been a lifelong challenge. Part of the problem is that I'm totally right-brained and he is totally left-brained. Sometimes trying to figure out what he is saying takes too much energy, so I simply say, "okay" and ignore him. It's my polite version of the teenage response, "whatever."

You see, my engineer husband prefers to be very conservative with his words, but in the end, we both use twice as many words as we would have if he had used a complete sentence in the first place. Here's an example of a typical exchange:

Me: "Do you want to eat at home tonight or go out for dinner?  I kind of feel like eating out, but I'm too tired to make the effort."

Him: "B"

Me: "Be what?"

Him:  "Choice b."

Me: "Which one was choice b, eating at home or going out?"

Him: "B"

Me: "Going out?"

Him: "That's what I said. B."

I anticipate that retirement will be exhausting. So, I'm already planning frequent lunch dates with my women friends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A New Earth

I just re-read Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth. What a powerful, enlightening experience!  How does one human find such insight into life? Truly he must be a prophet.

Like the Bible, Tolle's book is one I'm compelled to read again and again until I have internalized its teachings. I must remember that my life's purpose is to achieve "unity with the divine." I must remind myself to live every moment consciously. If what I am doing is not done with "acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm," I should stop doing it, according to Tolle. I wonder if that particular teaching applies to housework?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Fool's Choice

I'm one of those fools who believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter Sunday is the most important day in the life of a believer. The promise of Easter was foretold a thousand years before its manifestation. It changed the world in a way that no human idea or invention ever could.

If you ask me why I believe, I can only say, "I know Christ is risen because I know the risen Christ." I don't need miracles to believe, but I have experienced miracles. I don't need signs that God is real, but I witness signs of God's grace every day, and I have received God's mercy and forgiveness.

Science doesn't always prove God's existence, but believing in the risen Christ doesn't require scientific proof. The God who sacrificed His Son so that I could receive mercy and forgiveness is the same God who created science. If faith in Jesus Christ makes me a fool, then so be it. Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Developing Habits

My publisher says I should develop the habit of writing every day.  "Write something," she says, "even if it's only a paragraph."  But there are so many things I'm supposed to do every day: eat vegetables, take vitamins, exercise, bathe and floss my teeth, to name a few.  I understand the importance of developing positive habits, and I've heard it takes six weeks of consistent repetition for an activity to become a habit. So, here I am, trying to write a blog every day, whether or not I feel inspired.

My father has been on my mind lately . . . not that I miss him, but it occurs to me he may have been inadvertently responsible for my need to write.

Dad was a man of low self-worth.  This characteristic manifested itself in criticism of others.  He was under the deluded impression that he could elevate himself by putting others down.  As a child, I was timid about expressing my opinions.  I was afraid of incurring Dad's harsh criticism.  So, I kept my thoughts to myself.  I watched silently as other family members were subjected to his vitriolic comments.  At an early age, I made the unconscious decision to remain outside the sphere of his anger and negativity.

After a lifetime of pretense and avoidance, I've found a means, through writing, of expressing my deepest longings.  So, I guess I should say, "Thanks, Dad.  You succeeded in influencing me, despite my best efforts."


Friday, March 25, 2016

Waking, Walking, Writing

I love to walk in the morning, especially when the warm sun travels along the path I have chosen and a gentle breeze kisses my cheeks.  A brisk walk clears my head and infuses energy for the day ahead. Whenever I skip this morning regimen, I tend to drag through the day. Work seems burdensome rather than joyful. Often I use the time to meditate and pray. Sometimes I am compelled to pick up litter that has been carelessly strewn beside the road. Other times I simply and gratefully bask in the wonder of God's amazing creation.

As I lift a hand to acknowledge passing drivers or utter a quick "good morning" to other walkers, I wonder about their lives . . . not the usual curiosities: Where do you live?  What do you do?  Where are you going? Rather, my questions, as a writer, are: What makes you tick?  How do you respond to life's challenges? What are your fears, your joys, your struggles?  What worries you?  What motivates your words and actions?  What brings you peace?

My extroverted neighbor stops each passerby and fearlessly poses her questions aloud. She engages in many conversations along the way and acquires much information about the neighborhood before returning home. But I prefer to imagine the answers.  

Often, as I put one foot in front of the other, an idea for a story or a character pops into my head, compelling me to rush home and put pen to paper or, more accurately, fingers to keys.  I realize I have engaged in this practice throughout my entire life--unconsciously inventing fictional characters and scenarios, that is.  With retirement looming, I look forward to the luxury of time in which to weave them into stories and share them with my fellow introverts, who, like me, would rather read and write than talk.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Getting Real

As an author, I find it challenging to create characters who possess value systems different from my own. I struggle to express, on paper, attitudes and actions that are contrary to my own beliefs. Take, for example, swearing--or "cussin'," as my sweet mother-in-law used to say. I don't believe in taking God's name in vain, and I find the "f-bomb" repugnant. Yet, what if one of my characters would be more authentic by spewing obscenities or by being sexually explicit or abhorrently cruel?

Some horrific stories, as in my novel, The Dark Room, are just too important not to be told. The Dark Room describes the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse of a woman, her daughter, and her grandchild. Often Stella's husband, Hank, is drunk or high on drugs when he administers the abusive language and beatings. While the story is fiction, it represents too many true accounts of battered women and abused children. I wanted it to be authentic. I wanted real, current-day victims to recognize themselves in Stella and realize that no matter how subtle the abuse, there is hope, and there is help if they reach out. They can read my FREE companion book, Yes, You Can Find Freedom from Violence on my website.

In order to make Hank believable, I had to create a persona that is wholly egregious to my sensibilities. Hank is cruel, controlling, filled with rage, and unable to express his grief in a healthy way. Instead, he tries to numb his emotional pain with drugs and alcohol. He lashes out and alienates the very people who could provide support.

Through research for this book, I discovered case studies that verified the authenticity of my accounts. The cruelty described in The Dark Room is more prevalent in American society than most people realize--or are willing to admit. Women and children from all walks of life are beaten or belittled every day by  emotionally damaged men who have a need to control and overpower others. These men are attracted to the people who seem least likely to fight back or stand up for their rights as human beings. Abusers convince their victims that they are worthless and at fault.

If I have a story to tell, should I dilute its impact by writing a cleaned up version? Do I tread on the side of caution or do I set aside my own discomfort to develop authentic characters? Somehow I find it difficult to take that plunge, knowing that my written words will outlive me. Perhaps I'll never completely reconcile this issue, but the message of hope, help and healing is just too important to water it down. While I feel a responsibility to my readers to give them authentic characters, I draw the line at sensationalism and obscenity just to sell books. 

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Becoming a Writer

Finally, I'm starting to refer to myself as a writer, to think of myself as an author. It's hard for someone who has spent forty-five years developing a totally different career to adopt a new label. I didn't start writing, in earnest, until the age of sixty. I will always be passionate about children, education and music, but now I look forward to a rewarding retirement activity: writing novels.

Reflecting on the process of writing my first novella, Diary in the Attic, I realize I brought it to a conclusion too quickly. As a novice, I was so excited to find I could actually write anything—that I could put words together to express ideas, that I could invent characters, give them names and bring them to life, that I could devise a plot—I failed to adequately develop all of those components.

Once I saw the book in print, it became painfully obvious that I needed a good editor. The grammar, spelling, syntax and other basic elements were fine. At least I didn't sound like a total idiot. I still like the murder-mystery plot and I like the characters. But as I read the finished product, I realized it could have included more detail, more dialog and further plot development before rushing to the last chapter.

Okay, lesson learned and on to my second novel, Unrevealed. I knew I had a story to tell, one that was worth telling. This time, I would take my time, focus on the details, develop believable characters and work to fully engage the reader. I took care to make the dialog authentically reflect each character's personality. I put in the necessary hours to research, edit, re-edit, and brutally cut superfluous passages. Finally, I worked with a good editor. The result is a work of literature about which I feel proud, despite a couple of typos. I think the reader will be captured early and compelled to continue reading. If you have read Unrevealed, I would appreciate your feedback. Just remember to be kind, please. This writer still has a lot to learn.