Friday, January 23, 2015

How to be happy

When I look back at the last few years, I'm a bit amazed that I got to here. As a family, my husband and I and our kids, have been through 3 cancer diagnosis, changing churches, recovering from bad jobs, dealing with depression, and losing our dog. One would think in all of that I would have so many stories to tell that I wouldn't run out of blog posts. However so few of those stories are mine. I don't feel right telling them. So I settle for smaller stories and think maybe some day I can tell that story. After much thinking and talking, I have found a story that is mine. I see how I am living a bigger story and I can tell you about it.

Photo Credit: Britt Selvitelle


I think my story starts with the fact that I am happy. I have joy and contentment and happiness. Some moments and even some days I might forget that. I get disappointed and frustrated with myself and others in my life from time to time. But those things don't stay. What does stay is the happy. The happy hasn't been easy to achieve. I've had to deal with a lot of doubts and pain. I've had to work through things personally and with other people. I'm getting better at financial decisions and sticking up for myself. Things are better than they were a few years ago. It hasn't been easy, but it has been good.

As I deal with other people, I have come to realize that many of them are not happy. Quite frankly it is hard for me to deal with.  I really don't have patience for people that continue to remain in their unhappy frustrated state. They drag me down and I don't want to be down. There has been enough going on in my life, our lives, to bring me down. (In case you forgot, read the first paragraph again.) I have to deal with my stuff enough. I really don't want others putting their issues that they refuse to solve on to me. If you want to work on it, I will stand beside you. If you don't, then don't give them to me.

So in learning to be happy, I've had to learn how to get rid of stuff that isn't mine. I've also had to learn how to deal with what is mine. I can't pass it along to other people. I can't expect anyone to fix it for me. I have to do it myself. When I start doing it myself, then I can ask other people that I trust to work with me. Not for me, with me. When I start working on me, then I get me out of the way. I make room for God and then I can be happy.

I think there is more to tell, but I'm not sure where to go next. So we'll leave it here. Deal with your stuff and make room for God. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Becoming an Adult

I have had a blog post idea in my head for a couple weeks. The words weren't coming, but I knew it was something that needed to be written. Then earlier this week shortly before bed, I had a new angle to it. The angle was great and the words were coming. I got a few of those words down before I went to sleep. I didn't get all of them down. I didn't even get the whole idea down. But I was excited about it. It was a great idea. Surely I wouldn't forget about it. So today, I am caught up enough in other parts of my life to get to that blog post. I sat down and read over the words I had written.

Then...

NOTHING!

Nothing came to me. The previous idea was completely gone. The words that were so freely flowing earlier this week are completely gone. I started writing something and it was okay, but I don't know if it was the direction I wanted to go. So I stopped. Maybe I'll try again later. That doesn't really help me for now. I wanted something to write for today. Something to publish, so I can get back in the habit of writing. So now I'm writing about not having anything to write about. And I'm pretty sure that is a crappy idea too.

So I have a quick little story for you that was prompted by a question someone asked me. The question: "What is your favorite restaurant?" This time when I was asked that question my mind started sifting through all of the restaurants I have ever been to. I thought about the beachy restaurants in Florida. I thought about the fancy restaurants I have been to in various cities. I thought about childhood favorites. I thought about the places that have made me feel welcome. And then there was one that stood out. Quite honestly, I don't even remember the name of this restaurant. I didn't remember the name of the hotel. Google fixed that problem.(I think)

Hotel Mocambo, Veracruz, Mexico














In 2004 just a few weeks before I was set to get married, I took a group of students to Mexico. It was an amazing group of kids. We were travelling with 2 teachers from Kansas. We went to Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. Veracruz is a beach town and a port city. It was a pretty great last stop. I was so blessed to be travelling with another amazing group of kids from Kansas. We had been blessed with a wonderful trip and amazing experiences thus far. Then we saw the hotel in Veracruz. It was amazing! There were 2 or 3 pools, a gym, a spa, a couple places to eat, and a gift shop in the hotel. I'm not certain what constitutes luxury, but this was it to me. The best part of the hotel in my opinion was the terrace where breakfast was served. One night the other two teachers and I had dinner there. I think it was the last night. The students had eaten and were enjoying each others company before they had to go home to separate states the next day.

I remember sitting there looking out at the amazing patio thinking of how lucky I was. I remember the ocean breeze and the soft lighting. I don't remember what I ate. I don't remember what I drank. I do remember sitting with one of the teachers after our food was gone. Her teenage daughter and student was on the trip with us. I wasn't that much older than her daughter, so she was obviously quite a bit older than me. I don't remember anything in particular that she said. I just remember sitting and talking about life. I remember her talking to me as an adult. I remember feeling like an adult, a successful adult.

My life was about to change in huge ways. I got married a few short weeks after that. I moved across the country and back and back again. I would go on to have two kids and teach lots more. But that night I sat there talking to that wonderful woman who knew  how much was about to change for me because she had gone through that. She talked to me like an adult and had confidence in me that I was going to be okay. More than okay, I was going to be successful. She imparted some of the wisdom she had gained as a teacher, wife, and mother on to me. She shared life with me. And for that I am forever grateful.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Holding On To It All: One Word 2015

Today I'm announcing my word for this year, but I haven't written a wrap up post for last year's word. I'm okay with that, which is actually a fairly good summary of what I learned with rest. The flip side of that word however is laziness. I flirted with that more than once and called it rest. It wasn't. It was lazy. It seems odd that I struggle with laziness when I am so busy. I find that I attempt to combat that laziness with things to do. That's a good thing mostly. Sometimes it isn't laziness though, it is rest and that is important for this introvert.

I briefly thought about rest being my word for this year as well. It didn't seem quite right though. I wanted a word that would challenge me, a word that was different, a word that would make people ask questions. 2014 was coming to a close and I still didn't have a word. Then the last Sunday morning of 2014 we sang a hymn and a word caught my eye. I searched the word in my Bible app. I wrote down several verses. I reread the verses and eliminated all but two. I then found myself in a dilemma. Are two verses allowed for my one word? Then I realized there were no rules except the ones I have made up. So if I want 2 verses, then I can have two. With that decision, my word had been chosen.




KEEPING

I like that it is in the progressive form because it indicates that some stuff is already going on. I want to keep that up. I will be keeping traditions. I will be keeping the faith through all of our challenges this year. I will be keeping my promises to God. And He will be keeping me.

Luke 12:35 - "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning."
Numbers 6:24 - "The LORD bless your and keep you."

These verses are about the keeping I will be doing and the keeping He will be doing. I feel like I have grown and learned and gained so much from last year. I don't want to lose those things, but I also don't want to lose what I have here. I want to try to hold on to it all. I can't say that I am ready for it because I'm a bit scared of this word. It is a word that requires a lot from me.  I'm challenged by it, but I know it is the right word at the right time to move me in the right direction.

Do you have a word or a resolution for this year? What do you expect out of 2015?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reading Wrap Up 2014

So I did a reading preview at the beginning of the year, so it only seems fair to do a reading wrap-up. I'm sure I will do a best of post at a later point in time. And probably on my other blog, but for now, I'm going to update you on the books I mentioned earlier this year.

River's Deep was better than I expected. Soul of Storm has been delayed, but I'm okay with that because I would rather it be late and be written right.

From my bookshelves: 

I did not get to Mere Christianity. I have a feeling this is going to be a deep read and I want to be ready for that. I haven't been yet. So once again, I'm okay with a delay if it means I get it right.

Introverts in Church - Some good, some was more for church leadership. So I guess if I get to that place, I will be rereading this one.

The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors of My Home - This gave me a great sense of real people in real places that really lived. I wouldn't go so far as haunting, but memorable.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World - Practical suggestions in short and easy to ready chapters. There is a ton of information here though. You can read through it, but you could just as easily refer to the chapters you need when you need them.

A Salty Piece of Land - It was pretty good, but there were a few parts that were way too wordy and others that were way too explicit. Things that were thrown in and seemed completely unnecessary. I read it and pretty much enjoyed it. It just left a bad aftertaste.

Gringos in Paradise: An American Couple Builds Their Retirement Dream House in a Seaside Village in Mexico - This one took me a while to read because there was just so much in this one. Not to the point of boredom or frustration. Just made for slower reading.

From my Kindle:

There were a couple from my Kindle that I started by didn't finish. One I might come back to if I'm in the mood for a romance. One had an awful narrator and I will not go back to that one.

Firefly Beach - Nice enough read. I admired the author's work more than the book itself. Not sure if that says good things or bad things.

Finding Poe - AMAZING!! An unreliable narrator submerged in a world of Edgar Allan Poe made for an enjoyable page turner. Love, love, love it.

Henrietta Street - I started this one. I will finish it in January.

From Goodreads:

I read less of these because some were hard to track down and some were more serious non-fiction than I wanted to read. I did not read Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, , Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room, , After looking at a couple of these again, I'm determined to read a couple in 2015.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Beautiful and haunting. This one makes you wonder what is the world really made of.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon - She is a story teller, so this is a fabulous book. I loved to just sit back and read this one.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) - Um. No. I didn't finish it. I didn't like the author, or the way she sounded in the writing of the book.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore - Amazing! Even sitting here writing about it, I'm ready to read it again. Fabulous adventure.

Theology in Aisle Seven: The Uncommon Grace of Everyday Spirituality - I bought the book and have started to read it. I am LOVING it. There is so much that I'm highlighting. I'm glad I bought it, so I can come back to it over and over.

Asylum - I put this on hold at the library. I'm number 14, so it might be a while before I get it read. But I'll get there.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare - I put this one on hold at the library as well. I am number 2, so I will be getting to this one soon!

Author to rediscover:

Carol Goodman: After starting this post, I decided to see what the library had from North Carolina Digital Library. There was one, Arcadia Falls. I checked it out and enjoyed it. It is everything I expected from this author. It's great to know that I have several others to come back to when I need a for sure quick read winner.

Finish

The Charter - I went back and forth about liking and not liking this book. I'm glad I stuck with it, because I really did enjoy it.

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Glad I finished it, but I don't think I love it so much that I will read the others in the series. (BTW, I am an awful reader of series' of books.)

Possible rereads:
Nope. I didn't reread anything. Not surprising. There are too many good books out there to go back and read something again!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life Explosions

Life is going along just fine and then 5 different things happen and you aren't sure how you got here. That has been this week. It hasn't been anything horribly awful bad. It has just been a bunch of little things. 
Photo Credit: Umberto Salvagnin

Last week we were crazy busy. There was something every night from Monday to Saturday that kept us away from the house until 7 or 8 pm. So we were looking forward to this week being a little quieter. And it has been, but not based on our plan of quieter.

Sunday morning about 1 am, I woke up to hear Ben coughing and then running to the bathroom. That was followed by him vomiting. I got up and helped him as best I could and we went back to bed. This pattern continued about once an hour for the next several hours. Sometime around 7 or 8, Ben moved to the sofa. Needless to say church was out for the two of us on Sunday. Drew started getting ready and got Lily ready, but he felt awful himself. A lingering cold/cough/thing has left us worried that it could turn into pnuemonia. And Lily still wasn't over her cold virus either. So Sunday was spent on the sofa and in the bed instead singing and playing Marc's amazing Christmas song.

Monday was a little better. Ben stayed home from school just to make sure he was better. The gunk in Drew's chest was moving along and he was feeling better. Lily was still snotty and gunky sounding. I stayed home from work to keep caring for them all. Lily went to the doctor. She had a sinus infection. Since Drew took her, he didn't get done working until later. Since he didn't get done working until later, he didn't get to go to Bible study with me and the kids. However, the three of us made for the first time in months. It was good discussion and a couple points hit close to home. So Monday was looking up.

Then Tuesday morning at about 2 am Drew and I were each in a bathroom getting sick while Lily played in the floor of our bedroom because she thought that was a good time to play. So a minor bump in the road became a minor life explosion. This was one of those awful can't move off the couch because it will make me sick stomach bugs. And that's not really possible with two kids in the house. I was able to get Ben to school and get myself back home before I got sick again. Lily slept quite a bit that day, which she needed and so did we. Nana and Aunt Terry took for a little while too. Drew got Ben home from school and later went to go get him food. I pretty much stayed on the couch trying not to get sick anymore. So Tuesday didn't go as planned.

On Wednesday I get back to work and discover that several others had been sick in my absence and there are 3 Christmas meals planned for the end of the week. I also found out that there was water damage to the parsonage of our church. The music minister had to work late on Wednesday. And there are several student absences due to sickness this week. There was a computer crash that derailed a student project.

So the family dinner and Christmas movie didn't happen this week. The looking at Christmas lights didn't happen. The special Christmas music didn't happen. The Christmas meals at work are sort of happening. The group projects for this week are only sort of happening. The music at church sort of happened. 

All of this sort of happening and didn't happens could really throw me off and stress me out, but I decided that what will be will be. I don't need to make anything different happen. God is in control and not me. I can only do what is in my control, which isn't as much as I think. I can rework some things and give up on other things. It is all okay. These little life explosions are not the end of the world. They aren't even unexpected events because God knew what was going to happen anyway. So I lean in to Him and away from me. 

"God's in his Heaven and all's right with the world." Anne Shirley

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Here I am again

Attribution: Alice Popkorn


So after unintentionally taking a 2 month break, I'm finding myself wanting to blog again. Let me start by saying THANK YOU! So many of you still read what I have to say even though I only say it every great now and then. I really would like to get back to doing this regularly. I want to look at my world again though the lens of my blog. I want to see the stories that happen in life because stories are important. Stories connect us to each other. Stories challenge us. Stories encourage us. Stories stick with us. Stories make us better people.

I look back through past posts and I laugh about some stories. I cringe about others, but even those are memories. And those memories are recorded here for you and me to see and remember. So as this year is coming to a close and we begin to reflect on what has been and start thinking about what will be next year, this blog is on my mind. I am happy with what I have written because it was good stuff. I am happy with my One Word for this year, rest. I think have done well with that. I even thought about keeping it for next year because I need to remind myself to rest so often.

But more than just reminding myself to rest, I need to remind myself that I am living a story. Some days I live it well and some days I live it poorly. This blog really does help me live it well. I know I want to encourage people with this blog. In order to do that, I have to look out for stories of encouragement in my life. I can't look at a situation and only focus on the negative in that situation. I have to see some positive because I'm going to be back here telling you guys about that positive.

I'm going to be honest. Right now, my positivity sucks! I'm not positive. I'm not the light I have been called to be. I'm a dark complaining void of a person who is caught up in all the 'if you just did it my way' thinking that I should be getting rid of. Hello, Romans 12:2. I think we need to be friends again.

So here I am again saying thank you for sticking with me and I promise to do better. Not just for you, but also for me. I need to do better here because these stories make me a better person in my real life. Feel free to call me out if I'm not spending time here with you guys because that probably means, I'm not being the person I need to be in real life either.

Love you all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What NaNoWriMo Success Means To Me

I have attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo since 2012. I had heard of it before that, but was too scared to try. In 2012, I got to 30,000 words. However, I had a huge section of the story that I hated. In 2013, I got about 32 words. So yeah, I basically forgot about it, but I was pregnant and stuff like that happens when one is pregnant. So this year I wanted to participate, but October was closing and I had nary an idea. I had all the characters, like 9, I had created in an attempt at the 31 days of blogging. Surely in 9 characters there would be an idea somewhere. But no. There wasn't one idea.

Then we went to lunch at Wendy's as a family on October 31. As I sat there waiting on our food, I looked around at the people eating there. I wondered what their stories were. I saw some by themselves reading. I heard frustrated conversations. I heard laughter. There were people of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic statuses there. Then I got to thinking that this would be a great story. All of these people gathered in this place and then going out to finish living their stories. That was the entirety of my idea.

So the next day was a Saturday. NaNoWriMo month could not have started any better for me. Saturday morning is the one day I have a few hours to myself and no where to be. So I started writing about this diner on a highway somewhere in America. I had took some of the characters I had created and added a few new ones via a Random Name Generator. I picked a table and started writing. I didn't have a story planned for each person. I didn't even have an ending planned. I just wrote about that table until the story came to an ending point. Then I went back to another table and wrote about it until there was an end. Some characters eked out a few meager words just because I wasn't going to edit anything out. Some characters got just a few words because I hadn't really connected with them yet, but I had to get something on paper. Other characters got several pages because I started to fall in love with them. One character even got 40 pages. It is safe to say that she is my favorite. Then on November 29 I crossed the finish line! I wrote just over 50,000 words.



So after a month of writing and planning (Yes I did them in that order most of the time.), I learned a few things. NaNoWriMo is about writing. I have to have words before I can edit them. And that is where most of my problem lies. I start editing in my head before I have the words written. So I need to stop listening my inner editor and just write. The words have to be there before the editing.

I also learned that I am a pantser. I fly by the seat of my pants. I like not knowing where the story is going. The more I plan the less I want to actually write. And if I don't know where the story is going and there is no plan, then my inner editor can't tell me not to write it.

Editing is important, but not as important as the writing. Now that I am done with the novel, I know there are several places that need to be trimmed away and there are places that need to be filled out. There are characters I need to make less harsh and monologues that need to become dialogues. There are large sections of telling that need to be more showing. And I'm excited about doing that. I'm excited to go back and fix these things and make a better story. Now that the words are on paper, I don't have to stress about them. They are there, now I can just focus on making them better.

NaNoWriMo success = writing breakthrough.