Rise

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My son is convinced that one, just one, of his nightmares was real. When the night spills over the blue sky, and the house creeks to the tune of the witching hour, he remembers it. “Do demons look like aliens?”

The same question, always. “They can, but Jesus will make them go away.”

“I know, but He took a long time to make them go away.”

We discuss the settling of houses, and how they have to get comfortable at night just like we do. I remind him that shadows often look like scary things just like clouds can resemble bunnies. These conversations almost convince him it was just a dream. Was it?

But, the dark haunts all of us, morphing worries into nightmares. Failures are monsters. Most people in my line of work experience so many failures, they often lose sight of their purpose underneath all the wounds. Success is intangible; a ghost, and sometimes is takes a very long time to get a clear look at it.

I worry about my little guy and the scars he’s developing at such a young age. But as we talk about shadows and monsters, holy week creeps by us and taps me on the shoulder, “Remember the curtain torn in two, the earthquake, rocks splitting open…the bodies of holy people rising from their tombs and appearing to many people? (Matthew 27).”

They weren’t the monsters—they weren’t aliens, or zombies, or anything that dwells in the dark splatter of night. They were spirits of victory. It took a lot of pain and blood for them to rise…it took a moment at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when God stepped away…and oh, did it seem like he was gone too long; utter forsaken agony, when all seemed lost…

…for Jesus to slay the nightmares. We must remember the nightmares have already been defeated.

As we carry our own crosses with monsters dumping humiliation after fear after pain upon us, and God seems so far away—we can take faith steps. We can breathe in faith and blow away the impossibilities, nodding our heads at the scary things rising, that are, in fact, signposts to victory.

Oxford Commas and the Rest of Us

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Two editors tame my books because a grammar revolution resounds in my head. Really. I take my commas and my semi-colons to town, aim them at each other, pauses blazing, and let them battle for the ink that fixes them to the page. Do we have a long pause, or a short one? If I paused here; would you pause here, too?

What’s wrong with making a new sound, anyway? Writers are artists which make readers aficionados of art; it’s subjective–you’re rock, I’m jazz–that kind of ditty.
Commas waltz, but semi-colons? They scat.

Fact.

Would civilization implode if I lay spaces here, but not between IHateOxfordCommas? That’s how I say it, after all–with plenty of Grrrrrrrr.

Will we start a literary Lord of the Flies if we abandon civilized grammar and write with the flow of our unique internal rhythms? That’s how we ditched thee and thou, btw, by going a little wild.

somehow its ok to text in an improper fashion but if i choose to write a book in text its assumed i need schooling. but you still understand me right?

Of course, some might argue that a double-dash or a capital letter are tools that perfect the art of language like a hammer to a nail. What if that nail didn’t belong within the bones of a house, but as the arms of a dreamer?

Not everyone loves scat.
She says dooby dooby no no. No.
Not everyone loves art.
wh@tEver.

BUT—,,,;;;—some are looking for a single comma misplacement to win a lawsuit; Some (yeah, I see you people) can’t read a story with a single imperfection. I would say something about color-coding socks here, but God made us all different, right?

So we must comma-speak.

Here’s a grammarian song to start your Monday (language warning).

I H0pe 1t’s @ G0od 1.

Hulk Smash

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I saw an anaconda on Saturday. Even coiled behind glass, it looked fresh from a nightmare. As we took the kids along the many sights at the Game and Fish expo, I couldn’t help but wonder why God made the anaconda. Surely this thing didn’t exist in the Garden of Eden. Maybe it was some evil mutation that came from the curse.

The archery experience made me feel better. Like the target was a giant snake.

After grocery shopping the next day, I thought about all the exhibits we saw…the snakes, the animal skins (I’m not happy with whoever shot the raccoons), the hunters mingling with the conservationists. There was even a booth for those who wish to live in a self-sustaining community. All this swirled around my mind while I was leaving Fry’s, a few cars behind a guy who was dropping his girlfriend off for work. He took about five minutes to dig her purse from the back of his truck. His black truck with purple skulls on the tailgate. The car in front of me got tired of waiting and drove around the truck, much to the consternation of the skull-guy, who raised his arms at the car as if to say, “How dare you get impatient with me.” He took a few steps after the car and mouthed a few unsavories. Thoroughly entertained, I waited while the skull-guy handed the girl her purse and kissed her goodbye. Before he climbed inside his truck, he shot me a dirty look, threw up his arms—I think he even said, “Sssssssssssss”—at my, ummm…patience? The he drove off while flipping me off.

Mutation?

Is it the curse festering inside the man? I’m not sure life outside the Garden is always diagnosable. How was your weekend?

Naming your future

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My parents named me Sherry because they liked that name. I looked it up a few days ago in my Character Naming Sourcebook. It means from the white meadow. Very funny. I suppose God had a good chuckle when another Darwin was branded with a name that matched the ghostliness of their skin, from a long line of ghost-skinned Darwins. Our meadow lacks melanin. The branch of us that now live in sunny Arizona battle sun damage and skin cancer and the meadow is more red and scarred than white now, and despite the Native American bough that joined our family, most of us still resemble the white meadow from which we came. Is a golden tan too much to ask for? Could it be the name?

A few of my Bird relations have been accused of looking a little beaky. My Bird Grandparents sang a lot of gospel; their timbre was sweet and they perched on their front porch to enjoy many evenings. My Grandma tweeted at me once.
William Wallace lived up to his name which means Protector. Did his parents have a premonition, or did he become his name?
What about you? Did you become that which defines your name? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Caged Birds

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An old memory surfaced the other day as I walked the halls of the retirement home, my day job that’s actually a night job. The old ghost goes like this: I was eight, maybe ten years old, and walking through a drug store in Cottonwood with my mom. An elderly man shuffled along the pain-killer row, his head and neck bent down, his feet unsteady in his orthopedic shoes. From some mysterious place, a surge of compassion washed over me and I begged God to let me help old people one day. I’m not sure where that came from, but a little over a decade after finding I didn’t want to go where my Design degree tried to lead me (and after forgetting my strange plea in the drug store), I found myself working in a Retirement Resort to pay the bills until I figured out where to go next.

Late into the night when my duties slow, I pen novels at that desk now–someday I may write about the retirement place. Here are a few of the greatest hits from the grandparent generation.

A few weeks ago, a resident called me, concerned about an alarm in his Apt. I checked my pager and Teltron panel—my link to resident emergencies, medical and smoke—silence on my end. I’ve been working there 17 years—“alarms” can mean anything.

The first thing I noticed when I entered his Apt. was his fabulous collection of art supplies—there’s something about seeing a living room stuffed with easels and canvases—you know a working artist still has things to say about life. The second thing I noticed was that all familiar beep you don’t fully appreciate until you become a parent—I smiled, weighing my words. “It’s your TV,” I told him. “The beeps are to censor swear words.” He thought that was strange—probably because he’s an artist who thinks the world needs to hear a little more of life, but I was just thankful for the good laugh we had before I left.

Hattie (*code name*) was one of my favorites. She owned a bird named Sweetie. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a fan of caged birds; they have wings—they should fly. But my job is to take care of the residents and I grew to love Sweetie. One late night while immersed in a book—before I decided to put them down and write my own—Hattie called in a panic. Sweetie had escaped her cage and was flying around her Apt. in a fury. She had damaged her wing. I hurried down the hall and called my husband because unlike me, he’s a fan of caged birds and talked me through the process of doctoring Sweetie’s wing—once I caught her. Instead of chasing her down, I just waited until she landed on her own, then Hattie helped hold her still while I slathered her wing in something goopy (I don’t remember what). Hattie’s last few years were difficult ones for her; she was locked in her own cage of illness, but Sweetie was her faithful companion. If Hattie needed to leave for the day, she clutched Sweetie’s cage to her side like a purse full of treasure. Sweetie sang to Hattie, bringing her comfort through many anxiety-ridden days.

Like I said, I could complete a book with my experiences with retirees, but the catalyst for my writing career began with Bessie (*code name*). Bessie had developed Alzheimer’s disease, going from clarity one day to mental nightmare the next, rapidly declining from what has to be one of the worst diseases to haunt mankind.
She got to where she couldn’t dress herself or ask for a glass of water, but that same mysterious force that prompted my childhood prayer simmered inside Bessie as one last gift. She couldn’t form a complete sentence, or remember the right words for anything except one—a bible verse. Many if I remember correctly, but the one she gave me in her sweet chirping voice came the very night an idea for my first book nestled inside me:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.

This THE DAY my artistic fingers starting itching like crazy for an outlet.

Ten years later, the experiences with Bessie and my Grandpa (Dementia) inspired a short story now published in an anthology praised by a few of the most respected Authors of faith. The interesting thing about that is it’s a novel categorized as speculative fiction—the genre described by our traditional friends as the most “out there” and “unbelievable” of all genres. It is “out there”, but when you put all the pieces together—a retirement home, two people who have lost their minds, a caged bird who sang to her lady, the spontaneous prayer of a child and a genre thought to be for only those “weird” people—God can work with anything and anyone, and seems to have a preference for telling His most powerful stories from the least expected places. Maybe because the logical part of the world has forgotten that truths, no matter the magic that touches it, can’t be caged.

Wink

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While in college, I learned that my hair was really red, no—dark blonde, but mostly brown. My face is long too, or slightly oval by some angles; with most plays of shadow and light my lips are thin, but to those who stand where they can see smiles at the corners, they’re cupid-bow pink. All this I learned while posing for a painting class for extra cash.

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The popular Dove commercials reminded me about this experience and the whole beauty phenomenon; if I go sans makeup and let my hair fall in all its natural wildness it’s cool, because people will catch the angle of God’s love on my face if they take a minute to see from His light.

Because that’s what God’s artistry is–His wink reflecting in our gazes the moment they collide with imperfection. 

Time Is Not The Enemy

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Evidently, our attention spans have gotten so short we don’t want much depth in entertainment anymore (according to a billion quick articles)–we just want hook, thrill, and on to the next. This is true to some extent, but I don’t think this trend will last. Or if it does, humanity will go mad with this frenetic pace, unable to find meaning within the blink of an eye.

That’s probably why, when my husband and I took off for Sedona for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary, I forgot my deodorant. And my glasses (for reading a super fast-paced but depthless book before sleep), and….a shirt to wear the next day. Let’s see, there are the kids to get ready for the Grandparents, the two books I’m preparing at once (shall we say fast-paced depth?), the day job with the crazy hours responsible for making me sluggish much of the time.

Did I mention this was the FIRST time J and I have taken anything more than several hours off to celebrate our anniversary? In SEVENTEEN years? Year after year, we say we can’t afford a whole weekend, well–one of us, or both, I think it was J, but I don’t remember who because I’m too busy doing lots of fast-paced stuff, decided we needed to slow down a bit. And slim pocketbooks can become idols if we’re not careful.

Deodorant or not.

It was awesome. We took in some art, a church built in rock, and were able to walk leisurely. That’s an ancient word for relaxing.

Upon return, I realized it was time for the annual trying on of the wedding dress 100_4179day for Chloe. She wants the dress now. But this one thing to wait for, at least, will help teach her that NOW is not always good.

Hope is good though. And deodorant.

Happy Monday. May it be leisurely in all the important ways.

Sail

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Before I tuck my son into bed at night, he must leap. He stares me in the eyes and waves his hand at me, “A little farther back, Momma,” he says, bending his legs while I mini-shuffle away from his Spiderman blanket where he stands.
I hold out my arms and he launches through the air like the Sail Cat, arms and legs reaching for the feathers of flight. His body, it keeps growing and gaining the solid weight of active boy, but I’ve decided to let him leap as long as I can catch him because in that one second of air, I hope that moment will nestle in his memory bank like a seed, rooting him in the joy of soaring on full faith.

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