Category: Mightier Than The Sword


This is the start of the fourth week of NaNoWriMo, and I was doing so well. By the end of Week 2, I had written seventy-five percent of the words I needed to write to win NaNo 2013, though I would not be completely finished with my novel when I reached 50,000 words. Specifically, I was at 37,867 words. Then Week  3 came along, and real life stopped me in my tracks. Just for the record, the third week of November of 2013 was not a fun week. On Tuesday, my mother had hip replacement surgery, which was actually scheduled in advance, as she had a sort of fast growing arthritis that necessitated a complete hip replacement. I knew I might not get much writing done that day. I had planned for that in advance, and was optimistic.

On Wednesday, I was headed to work at 5:45 in the morning, looking forward to the day ahead in my Pre-K classroom, and then an evening of writing. I stopped at a traffic light and the pickup truck behind me didn’t. He hit me at around 40 miles per hour, and pushed me into the pickup truck in front of me, effectively totaling the SUV I bought back in March. I experienced being the middle part of a car sandwich and I am not ashamed to admit it was scary. I spent most of that day removing glass covered personal belongings from a car that will soon no longer be mine, and talking to insurance companies, police officers, and trying to find a ride down to the hospital so I could drive my mom’s car home. No writing that night either. And no writing Thursday night because after visiting Mom in the hospital, I had to replace my niece’s car seat, so we could pick her up at the scheduled time on Friday afternoon. No writing Friday or Saturday because this was a weekend she decided not to nap, and with a four year old, that makes finding time to write difficult. With five days left, I have to write around 3000 words a day in order to make it.

Here’s hoping that the coming week is better than the last one, and that I can stay on track and finish on time. May the Muse be kind. Whether I finish in time or not, I do plan to finish.

Well, folks, tomorrow is the big day. At 12:01 am tomorrow morning, National Novel Writing Month officially begins. I won’t be able to start writing until I get home from work around 4:00 or 4:15 tomorrow, and    though I have an outline, and I’ve done a plethora of research, I just don’t really feel ready. I will, however, dig deep and embrace this experience with all of the enthusiasm with which I normally embrace writing projects.

Several of you have asked me what the book is about. While I have had three or four good ideas, and all of them will be placed in the idea vault for future projects, I have settled on writing a metaphysical fantasy story. Basically, I’ll be writing about the things in life that might exist, but are not easily seen, or are only seen when the circumstances are right for them to be seen—things such as fairies, goblins, and elves, or creatures from past mythologies of the world, or even angels and demons. Beyond that, I don’t want to reveal too much of the story line, for two reasons. As I have mentioned before, talking about the plot of one of my stories tends to kill the tension of the story for me, and makes it harder for me to finish it. Also, plots change according to character whims and also necessity sometimes, and therefore, I don’t want to reveal too much and have readers be disappointed when something changes.

One thing that you should know about the world of my story is that little is as it appears to be. Many things  turn out to be something other than what you might think they are at the beginning. For now, that’s all I can tell you, but I will check in periodically with updates, and I hope you will all keep following along to learn more. 

One Week

It’s one week until NaNoWriMo kicks off for this year. For those who don’t know, November 1-30 is National Novel Writing Month, and hundreds of thousands of people will attempt to write a 50.000 word novel in the thirty days allowed. This year, I will be one of them. Now, traditionally, I do pretty well with writing deadlines, but that said, I’ve never attempted to write that much in that short a time. Add to that that I work full time, plus I am trying to get my pet sitting business off the ground, it will be a challenge to carve out the time I need to do this. I am determined to do it, if only to prove to myself that I can.   Image  As I am writing this, I realize that I only have one week to finish up the preparations for this challenge. There is so much left to do. I still have to determine which story it is I wish to tell in this novel. I have it narrowed down to three potential stories. Closer to the time I start writing, I can probably say for sure which it will be, but I don’t know yet. All of them appeal to me in one way or another. I must decide soon, so I can complete the rest of the research I need to do, make an outline, and do the various and sundry other things writers do before they start to write. I am nervous because time draws short. 

I can do this, can’t I? I mean, 50,000 words isn’t that much, is it? Wish me luck, and if I don’t get back to you before, I’ll see you on the other side of this adventure. 

That is the question, isn’t it? For some of us, it isn’t really a question. Or maybe it is, but there’s no real answer besides the one we know, have always known in our hearts to be true. Writing is the only way this chaos, this insanity that marks our crazy lives makes sense. My joke with friends is that I row crew because I like to row crew, and I teach because that’s my calling, but I write because I can’t help it. I can’t not. I can’t imagine a life without writing–a life without the words or the worlds of my imagination, a life without the ink-on-paper people who are more alive than many “real” people to me, or a life without the adventures and misadventures of these same people.

The fact that these people exist in my head makes no difference, nor does it render them any less real. If that seems crazy, then what I am about to say is even more so. I picked up the gauntlet thrown down by a couple of very good friends, and accepted the challenge of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in one month’s time. I SIGNED UP FOR NANOWRIMO. And what a challenge it is, too! Apart from a full time job, trying to get my business off the ground, and responsibilities at home, I will be attempting to write an entire novel (or most of one) in 30 days. The level of my success remains to be seen.

I will use the rest of this month to plan and plot and outline. Will it be a mystery story? Science fiction? Fantasy? Or something else? What of the characters dancing around in my head, half formed? Which will take the starring role? Who will the supporting characters be?  Where will the plot lines bend and twist like the branches of an old tree? Will this story follow the path of those before it and grow too complicated to finish in 50,000 words and thirty-days? Or will it fizzle and die in its infancy? I will brainstorm ideas, adopt them, and then discard them, and adopt others. I will outline and chart and plot. I will make notes and then tear them up and make more. I will come maddeningly close to throwing up my hands and walking away.

Then, on the evening of Friday, November 1, 2013, I will start to write, and the characters will finally have their say. At the end of it all, and as much as I might not want to admit it, I am simply their messenger, transcribing the story they wish to tell. If I do that well enough, it will be a story others want to read. If I don’t, well…

So, what do I need from you? Encouragement mostly. Motivation. To some degree, accountability. To reach the goal in the time allotted, I must write around 2000-2500 words per day. That translates to approximately ten to twelve pages. Every. Day. Feel free to inquire as to how it is going, or kick me in the pants (if I seem to need it) to get it done. You can ask what I am writing about, but please don’t be offended if I don’t tell you (not immediately, anyway). In my experience, sharing my work lessens the tension building as I work, thereby killing the motivation to finish in order to relieve said tension.

Thank you for your help, and I hope to see you on the other side of this coin with more stories to share. Happy Fall.

 

 

Running for my Life

Ok. So, I talked about starting Couch to 5k earlier in the summer. Well, I think the universe heard me because we got some really hot weather down here after that. Now, I grew up in Georgia, so I am used to functioning in typical Georgia heat. Normal Georgia heat is no problem for me, but when I was growing up, I only once remember having the kind of heat we have had over the past few summers. This well-over-one-hundred-degree heat with roughly-one hundred-percent-humidity makes me want to hibernate. Bears hibernate when it is cold, I tend to hibernate when it is hot, which is also the reason I haven’t posted much to this blog in the past few weeks.  No, I don’t hibernate in the sense that I eat a lot and then sleep for a long time, for that would defeat the purpose, since eating creates energy and energy creates heat. I’m only half kidding. Sort of.  I do stay inside the house, where the air conditioning has some chance of dispersing some of the heat.  I grew up in a house that wasn’t air conditioned, also in Georgia, so I figure I’ve paid my dues. I am very hedonistic in this matter.

Needless to say, then, I tried to get myself in gear to run in that type of heat, but it didn’t work. I tried running early in the morning, when the temperature was a balmy 88 or 89 degrees, with roughly one hundred percent humidity. I tried running later in the evening, when the air had cooled from the heat of the day, or even after we had had a shower to dispel some of the humidity. That didn’t work either, largely because I don’t find it motivating to exercise in a sauna, where the air is so thick that breathing is difficult, nor do I find it particularly beneficial to expose myself to heatstroke for the sake of staying healthy. Kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion. In fairness, one of the reasons it was so difficult is the extra weight I am carrying. When I came back from Peace Corps seven years ago, I was used to running regularly there, and I drank plenty of water, so I had my own type of internal air conditioner. But, I was also in my late twenties, and that was before I spent years working too long in my classroom, and caring for a terminally ill family member (the events otherwise known as gaining sixty pounds). So, that was the state of the C25K program in my life until recently. I thought my 5k running adventure had ended before it really got started.

Enter Chubby Jones. Chubby, whose real name is Mia, has created a series of podcasts (or three) for the iPod, with voiced over music for the C25K program. They are really nicely done, and I find them quite motivational. Since the unusual weather pattern we are having means that the heat has subsided into a wet and very nearly chilly-in-the-morning August, (shh, maybe the universe won’t hear me) I started the program again. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It only sucked a little. I am pushing myself, but I am also going at my own pace, acknowledging what my body’s limitations are. I still run like Forrest Gump, but at least I am running. It is one positive change that will lead to others.

What kinds of obstacles do you face during your exercise routine? How do you overcome them? I will look forward to reading your stories in the comments section below.

 

 

ImageAs most of you know, I spent the week before this last week at the beach. This was the first true vacation I’ve had in about six years, and I have to say that I was really looking forward to it, for several reasons, but mostly because I wanted to see how my soon to be three year old niece, Marlee,  would react to the sand and the water, and all the other things that make the beach well, the beach. I reflected on several things while I was there, and tried to write down those I remembered when I came back.

The first morning we were there, we all woke up at 6:30 am. When we went to the beach after breakfast, I saw all of these little mussels on the beach. The water would come up and cover them, and they’d be buried under the sand, and as we walked along, they would dig themselves out and all of them would appear at pretty much the same time. Most of the time, when I’ve seen the mussels digging, I have seen them burying themselves in the sand, not digging out. Marlee, who was supposed to be looking for shells with Grammy, kept trying to help them re-bury, and knowing the survival instinct of every living thing, I wondered why there were hundreds and thousands of these little critters, all digging out of the sand at the same time. My guess was that they would suffocate under the sand, and yet, if they got beached by the tide, they’d die as well. I decided it’s a hard life for mussels.

If any of you have been to North Myrtle Beach recently, you know how full of shells the beach is. I noticed how so many of the shells washing up on the beach were broken, and I wondered whether it was the vast power of the sea beating against the shore that broke those shells, or simply people walking the beach, stepping on them. Perhaps it was both.

Some people stood out for me, too. There was the woman who sat in the edge of the surf with her child, who couldn’t have been much more than a year old, and just sat in the edge of the water. There was the exuberance of young family half walking, half jogging down the beach, looking for shells and stopping occasionally to play in the sand. There were those who wanted to be, and were in their own world, who were either running or wandering aimlessly down the beach, a part of all that went on there, but also removed from it. Then there were the endless rows of chairs and umbrellas, the endless stream of humanity that oozed out of the resorts and onto the beach. These were the people who wanted to enjoy the beach with all the small luxuries of beach life. They wanted to be able to sun-bathe, to go into the water as it suited them, to have shelter from the sun, and who had someone next to them to talk to, wanted or not. Last, there were the lifeguards, sitting high up in their guard chairs, looking down on all the activity around them, ready to jump in and help if needed, and also ready to assert authority, if required. Most of them were awfully young for such responsibility.  Then, there was Marlee. She ran with such joy and reckless abandon on the beach. She dug in the sand with her little shovel, and threw it back into the water, thinking it was lapping up to try to get its sand back. She built partial castles with her Grammy and Aunt Kim, and gleefully destroyed them when she tired of them.

As I walked along the beach over the course of several days, pondering these things as I interacted with people of all types, it occurred to me that what I was seeing on the beach in that time is how life is, too. There are some people in this world who are struggling for survival, as those little mussels were. Despite great adversity and near cultural extinction, these people choose to use their talents and let their diversity shine as beacons of hope to other weary travelers, as God wants us all to do.

There are some people who are beaten by the power of the ocean in their own lives, and who wash up on the shore, not really knowing how they got there, but broken and bruised, and maybe even bleeding. They dig their fingers into the sand, and struggle to their feet, determined not to be washed out to sea one more time, determined to hang on. These people may need our encouragement to hang on, may need to know that God sees the beauty in broken souls, just as he does in whole ones. In fact, God uses the broken among us to give us all hope—the hope of His healing touch on our lives—and that Peace that passes understanding. The fact is that all of us are broken at times.

Other people want to walk around on the outskirts of life, never really coming down far enough to interact with anyone else, but still a part of the larger picture, whether they want to be, or not. God calls His followers to live lives that become the gospel, and that set us apart as Christians, so that these who are on the outskirts can feel the love of Jesus radiating from His followers, and know who we are, so that maybe they are drawn to the Kingdom through us.

Still others try to do all the right things, and they crave a deeper connection to others and to the purpose for their own lives. Perhaps they crave the passion they once had, which they’ve lost somewhere. They walk the walk, and talk the talk, hoping that what is lost will be found again, longing for a new perspective or new hope or deeper understanding, but too many of the superficialities of life get in the way, and they are having trouble finding what they seek. I think God knows that we identify with these people, as we all feel this way sometimes, and we’ve all seen this type of person at church. They come to church, they sit in the pew, they sing the songs, and they listen to the sermon. They even greet their neighbors, but at the end of the day, they still can’t make the connections they need to make with the scripture or with who they are as Christians to find the fulfillment they are desperately seeking. Perhaps it is a crisis of faith that is keeping them from finding what they seek, or perhaps it is just that the mundane things in life, the routine, makes it hard to find time to pray, to study, to reflect, and to interact as much as they desire. God calls us to reach out to these people, who might be walking in darkness, and offer them a hand back into the light of His love and acceptance and forgiveness.

I think we all find ourselves in each of these situations at times, and I think God wants us to experience and understand each of these things, so that we are more understanding of others who find themselves there. The good news, though, is that God is always there, always nudging us toward the light, calling us to be better than we are, and then forgiving us when we aren’t.

Over the past several days, and as the elections draw nearer, I have received several emails from one friend or another, or pages from friends on Facebook, with ideas about the upcoming elections or views on which candidate should be elected. First, for the record, I am NOT a political person, at all. That’s not to say that I don’t vote, or don’t care about my country. What I care about is not whether the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, or any other conceivable political party wins, what I care about, at the end of the day, is whether the American people win.

 Our Constitution was not designed with political parties in mind, and personally, I think there was a reason for that. I think our Founding Fathers, through their experiences with Whigs and Tories, knew the dangers of political parties, and knew that they could deadlock a group of people more effectively than pretty much any other device in modern day elections. The parties seem to know this, too. They know that human nature is to be passionate about the things we care deeply about, and if they can make us care more about political affiliation than the issues, then they hold some power over us.

 I understand that political affiliation is supposed to represent a particular group’s view on each issue, but it seems that in a world of lobbyists and hot button issues, the parties think that if they show they are supportive of the right issue at the right time, we’ll go on our merry way and forget about the rest. It seems more important to them lately to be “right” and to win, than to find solutions that really work for their constituents.  I don’t subscribe to that. I subscribe to Thomas Jefferson’s idea that an educated populace will always legislate themselves better than anyone else ever could.

 I vote, and I care. I care about building better schools, giving our kids the education they need to compete with peers in the global job spectrum. I care about women’s rights, and whether politicians have the right to tell me (or anyone else) what we can or cannot do with our bodies. I care about our soldiers, and our deficit, and whether we remain on good terms with our allies, and the other countries of the world. I care about our environment, and what kind of world we are passing on to our children. I care about whether American citizens have the prospect of finding a job that allows them to feed their families, gives them a purpose, and allows them to hold their heads up and look with satisfaction at the person in the mirror each day.

 I care that there are criminals out there taking those jobs, and the government doesn’t seem to do anything about it because they are worried about losing votes. So, they call them undocumented workers, instead of what they really are, which is criminals, and they hope we’ll look the other way while they allow them to stay, excusing their behavior by saying that these people wouldn’t know how to get along in their own country, and our people wouldn’t take those jobs anyway. Well, of the people I know, who are out of work, most would take any job they had to take to feed their families. Don’t the undocumented workers have the right to feed their families, too, you ask? Yes, they do, if they want to either do it in their own country, or do it LEGALLY here. If that means going home and starting over, sorry, but that’s what they should have done in the first place, so why bellyache about it now?  There isn’t space here for me to mention every single issue that I care about, as I am a person who is passionate about many and varied interests.

Last night, I received an email from a friend, talking about how Warren Buffet would solve the deficit problem, and I began thinking again of something I have been pondering since last year, when I served jury duty for the first time. Why not choose our Congress as we choose our jurors? I realize there would need to be certain minimum requirements in place, which are not requirements for serving jury duty. Also, I don’t suggest this lightly, because I understand how important the right to vote is to a constitutional republic, and I wouldn’t see that taken away from us, knowing that once things are taken away, we sometimes have to fight to get them back. Having to fight to get them back, though, may be the wake up call that some of us need. When we become complacent about our rights, and not willing to fight for them, we tend to lose them. Perhaps we even deserve to lose them. Whenever a President or a member of any of the other two branches of government usurps his or her Constitutional Authority, it is a matter of grave importance. It means that our government’s foundations are slowly being chipped away, and the lines are blurring, and it is a shorter step to one branch trying to take all of the power, which has not, historically, worked very well for other nations. Our Constitution gives us a remedy to the problem, and it is incumbent upon us to use it. 

Later on, tonight or tomorrow, I will lay out my ideas for reforming Congress. It should be interesting to read, so stay tuned.

What issues do you care about? What would you change about our government, if you had the opportunity? 

ImageImageImageThis past weekend, I hiked to the bottom of Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, Georgia. “Hiked” might not be an accurate term, since I really walked down the 425 iron steps to the bottom of the main falls, and then back to the top. Amicalola is a Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters”, and the falls are the tallest east of the Mississippi river, at 729 feet high. Starting from the top, the hike down was easy, but I found my legs shaking when I got to the walkway at the bottom, and I had to keep moving periodically because I felt I might fall if I didn’t. The hike back up was not as bad as it could have been, but much harder than it should have been.  My goal was to stop  two or three times during the hike back up, and I ended up stopping a bit more than that (think every landing). I had a stitch in my side, and I was breathing rather heavily. I made the mistake of being somewhat unprepared, since it was a spur of the moment trip that my family hadn’t planned on taking. The plan was to go to Tellus, the science museum in Cartersville, GA, but somehow we got turned around and passed the falls, and decided to go there instead, since we were lost.

 The weather was perfect for a morning hike, with none of the summer heat and little of the humidity indigenous to Georgia having set in yet,   and the scenery made the trek down as pleasant as any hike I’ve been on.  The signs marked the difficulty of the trail as strenuous. As much as I’d rather not admit it, with all the other things going on in life, I’ve become something of a weekend warrior. Seven years ago, when I returned from my two years of Peace Corps service, the trail would have been rather easy, but that was before the seven years of 60-80 hour weeks in the classroom, the fifty extra pounds I have found in the interim, and my grandmother’s illness for which she required round the clock care for two years before her death.

Since I am not teaching this year, I am making a special effort to get back to that same level of fitness I once enjoyed. This weekend’s hike reminded me that there is room to do more on that front, although I do try to stay pretty active. I walk regularly, play catch with my brother and my niece, and am learning to play golf. I had considered Couch to 5 k last year, but because of work, it didn’t fit my schedule, so I dismissed the idea. That was before I learned that iTunes carries podcasts of the C25k workouts, so I could do it on my own. So, I plan to start this week.  I’ll let you know how it goes, as the weeks pass.

What places do you like to visit with your family? What do you do to stay active? I’ll look forward to reading about it in the comments below.

<a href=”Wear Colors Proudly image
Flag Day Graphics @ dazzlejunction.com” title=”Wear Your Colors Proudly”>Wear Your Colors Proudly

Happy Flag Day, everybody. For those of you who might be from other places, this is the day Americans set aside to honor our flag. I loved the graphic of the eagle wearing his colors (and I am appreciative to Dazzlejunction.com for allowing bloggers to share it on their blogs) because these two symbols are so entertwined as symbols of American benevolence and freedom. The Eagle is a bird of prey, of great power, and yet he can symbolize either war or peace. Did you know that the direction the eagle is facing on our money and on the rugs in the White House is determined by whether the nation is at war or at peace? If the eagle is facing the arrows he holds in one talon, the the nation is at war. If he faces the olive branch he holds in the other talon, then the nation is at peace.

We are, traditionally, one of the most powerful nations in the world. Theoretically, we could wage war with just about anyone, and take whatever we wanted from smaller, less powerful nations in the world, but that isn’t what we are about. Instead we’ve become the longest lasting democracy on the planet, and in choosing to live at peace with others, and to help where we were able, we’ve become a symbol of hope and freedom for other nations. Despite our problems, and we have several notable ones, past and present, we are a family, and never do we stand more united than when we stand together to pay our respects to the flag of this great nation.  All that we are and all that we stand for flies high as a reminder wherever Old Glory waves. I would like to say a special thank you to all the men and women who have fought to defend her and everything she symbolizes. I would encourage anyone who reads this to do the same.

Ever in Peace may she wave.

A/N: This post was originally published last week, and for some reason, it disappeared from the feed. I suspect this had more to do with operator error than any mistake or inefficiency on the part of anyone else. I am reposting it in the event that potential future readers might like to see it.

 

Ray Bradbury died this week, y’all, and the world lost a mighty fine literary talent. I don’t know too much about him, other than the fairly obvious. He was a writer, a defender of books, and an opponent of censorship in any of its various forms. He was a true gatekeeper, and that’s one of the best compliments I can give him. Why a gatekeeper, you ask? Gatekeepers guard whatever is behind the gate, and in the case of books, it is thousands of years of knowledge and history passed down through the eons of mankind’s existence. All of what we are, all of what we have been, and all of what we have hopes of becoming lies there, behind the gates of the human experience. Thus, writers are gatekeepers.

Ray Bradbury inspired me to read, because it was through his books that I first began to understand that reading is important to an educated mind. Reading is its own type of freedom. It awakens the imagination, delights the fancy, and opens our minds to ideas we might not have considered before. Perhaps more importantly, reading helps us realize that we are not alone in the human struggle, but that our hopes and fears and adversities are the same hopes and fears and adversities with which man has been dealing since the beginning of time. Suddenly, we are no longer alone in the universe, but a small part of some larger something.  More than inspiring me to read, his books became a strange kind of obsession for me.

I don’t know how many people can point to someone else and say, “I do what I do because of him”, but in some ways I can. He wasn’t the only writer about which I can say that, but he was one of the first. Ray Bradbury inspired me to write, to create worlds beyond imagining, and to provide the social commentary that is the keystone of a free and democratic society. His characters were the voice of reason for several generations of our humanity. Rest well, Mr. Bradbury, and know that we appreciate your legacy.