Peculiar Snapshots

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I danced as Coppelia when I was sixteen. Like a superpower caught in a snapshot for Peculiar Children, this was mine. It’s not that I danced better than anyone else—it was that I was a wallflower, pulled from the dry wall, painted in bright color and set on the stage to tell a story. 11143277_10208165340716673_1456411550739629151_nPeculiarly, ballet made me bold like nothing else did. I even pressed a curve into my flat feet when I rose to my satin pointes.
Maybe landing the role despite my oddities was God saying, “all you need is to be willing. I’ll bring the magic.”
What makes you bold?
Feel free to share any peculiar snapshots of yourself in the comments.

How to not be an Expert

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Yesterday, I had to solve a problem without the internet. My panel of experts, so easy to find at the push of a button, disappeared with the Wifi. Not that everyone who hangs up a virtual shingle is truly an expert, but like a sailor to a siren, we easily get drawn to voices of authority.
I watched Footloose instead. I didn’t want to, but I got pulled in with the first bit of conflict. Who knew Kevin Bacon could dance like that? And it was more than his exquisite pivots that pulled me in—it was a forgotten art that kept me sitting on the couch.
It was how good storytelling can impact a culture.
Here is the plot summary from IMDb:
When teenager Ren McCormack and his family move from big-city Chicago to a small Midwestern town, he’s in for a real case of culture shock. Though he tries hard to fit in, the streetwise Ren can’t quite believe he’s living in a place where rock music and dancing are illegal. However, there is one small pleasure: Ariel Moore, a troubled but lovely blonde with a jealous boyfriend. And a Bible-thumping minister, who is responsible for keeping the town dance-free. Ren and his classmates want to do away with this ordinance, especially since the senior prom is around the corner, but only Ren has the courage to initiate a battle to abolish the outmoded ban and revitalize the spirit of the repressed townspeople.
Reverend Moore is so focused on his Reverend title, he’s forgotten why he does what he does—he’s become a Pharisee. Armed with answers for everything, he solves nothing.
Ren opens up the Bible at a town meeting, and points to where dance is referenced as a celebration. The holy word of God, the instruction book for all reverends reminds them dancing is good. “That’s all we’re doing. We’re celebrating.” he said.dance
I thought about this as I paused the movie to cut a sunroof in my kid’s cardboard box castle outside. I thought about it as I stopped the movie as my kids walked through so they wouldn’t see Areil’s boyfriend hit her, and hear the swear words flow free.

How much protection is good for them after all? Will they learn enough by me telling them what’s right and wrong, or do I show them more reality? After all, Ren learned how to dance through his problems.
My favorite things about the movie? The Reverend and Ren gained a mutual respect for each other, and the kids got their prom. The minister’s wife stayed with him through all of his not-so-nice years….and her support is what allowed him to humbly admit he was wrong.
Today, you’re either the good guy or the bad guy. You’re either a Democrat or a Republican. Today, it’s okay to publicly humiliate your enemy and forever remain an enemy, and it’s okay to spin all the answers off the end of your tongue even if you don’t stop to think about what you’re really saying.
But in one movie in 1984, the good guys and bad guys could solve problems together.
Maybe it’s time my kids should see and hear a little bit more so we can discuss virtual matters before they become reality–so they don’t get too accustomed to being told what to think without forming their own opinions.
I hope they never forget that to have the credentials of God’s children, they must experience fun on a regular basis.

Opposite Day

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I think George Costanza had it right when he initiated opposite day. Who doesn’t get tired of the same regurgitated memes we’re exposed to on a daily basis? After all, the world doesn’t need more followers.

For example, I already know Top Ramen is bad for me—I really don’t need a picture of what it looks like in someone’s intestines. You know what? I bet kale looks pretty gross in the intestines too. Or celery, or tofu…

And I’ll be so glad when the elections are over with and dealing with the stress of who’s going to win because it seems most of us are greatlycat-1333926_1920 concerned this time around, regardless of party. The word of the day (every day) is doomed. You know what can happen, though? The opposite. Once upon a time, there was a womanizing, greedy drunk who got himself into politics, had an awakening so to speak, and saved the lives of 1,200 Jewish people. His name was Oskar Schindler. So who knows? Maybe a hero will be birthed from this mess.

Here’s another idea I’d love to hear the opposite of: “Your kids will be exposed to all kinds of stuff in public school.” You know what they’ll get exposed to? The world in which we live (I consider that good preparation).

My intention here is not to criticize, in fact, we all get an overabundance of that don’t we? I read in Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts that making a daily list of all the things we’re thankful for can change our hearts, attitudes, and quality of living. So I’ve started my own. It helps, even if the kids are fighting and throwing things in the car, I can say (after I go a bit mad-mama),  thank you for my family, thank you for our working car, thank you for the beautiful bird…that just pooped on my car…

But wait! This is where we learn our sense of humor, right? I can be mad at that bird, or realize that God’s teaching me how to smile through the midst of all the $#*!.
(I never write $#*!, but it’s opposite day, so why not?)

Just go forth into this Monday a happy leader…and beware the Dark Side.

What if We Were Duct Tape?

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Last year, when I wasn’t as close to 40, I bought a satchel for my writing travels. Gray as a morning dove, it offered pockets for my laptop, manuscript and cell phone. It was young, beautiful and perfect.

The first strap broke in the Philly airport after enduring 6 hours of being overstuffed with books and that extra outfit for “just in case.” My blue travel purse was also inside–the one that didn’t have to be big enough to fit wipes, snacks and a good sized collection of Minion bandaids.

Thankfully, I had packed duct tape in case my Leeloo Dallas suspenders had an accident (because a writers conference for speculative fiction writers must have cosplay).satchel

By the time the strap on my blue purse broke, I was running on a lot of adrenaline and little sleep, so I don’t remember if it was during Tosca Lee’s or Thomas Locke’s class but I didn’t stress it too much–the purse was about a decade old.

It was when a second strap on my newer satchel broke that I began to look around me…was it during the paranormal panel?

What does this mean?

I laid the irreparable blue purse to rest back in the Villanova dorm room, then grabbed the bright orange duct tape and reinforced all four straps of my satchel. I figured I should be thankful for the duct tape than pout over the out-of-place patches of my dove-gray beauty.

Now that I’m home (a few breaths from 40) and shopping for a heavy duty yet attractive bag, I’m staring at Oksana Chusovitina on the TV screen. I see her solid form, her poise and most of all–the lack of fear in her eyes. She’s a 41-year-old Olympic Gymnast.

Wow. I smile and realize, of course–She’s duct tape.

She’s the sturdy bridge between the young and old, standing in front of the world and reminding us to quit underestimating ourselves. We may feel out of place, but like those of us who immerse ourselves in speculative thought, she simply asked, “What if?”

The Summer Files: I Made It.

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I’m not going to repeat any cliches about sending my kids back to school. If you’re a parent, you’re familiar with that place between the happy dance and the realization that somewhere, in the midst of handling temper tantrums and reading the latest book on parenting a strong-willed child, your kids have grown a few inches closer to your eye level.

What will I see when I can look straight into their blues? Will they have absorbed the stress I feel much of the time? Will they reflect all those mistakes I made?20160808_074738

What will they see reflected in mine? I know what I want them to see: love, acceptance–no matter what. Strength. Wisdom.

Motherhood is, of course, plagued with those days where guilt, impatience and not knowing how to answer some of those freaking hard questions make us feel anything but wise and strong. Scars form in the silver streaks of hair and stress fractures lining the skin around our eyes and the motions of our mouths.

I guess that’s one reason why I love working with the elderly. They’ve accumulated enough battle scars to have lived fully, yet I see something in most of them that makes it all pretty dang awesome. Like sculptures of divine wisdom, they glow with that word at the top of our lists: Love. Of course. But not just Love; it’s out love. Those who out loved what other people thought, out loved anything their kids did or didn’t do, out loved the hard-to-answer questions that scarred a thick layer of life over their youth.

I don’t know, maybe this is one giant cliche after all. But, I guess if it takes that much repetition to drill Love’s power into our hearts than that makes it okay.

Me, Garfield, maybe you– we’re going to learn to out love Mondays and all impossible seasons. Here we go…

The Summer Files: Day 75

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This week I got to be a full fledged grown up.

I went on a business trip.

Of course, it was one of those fun ones. I made the trip across the country to Philly, meeting a few friends at the airport where we stepped outside and slowly trudged through blankets of humidity (I think my mascara is still running).

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Before we got down to business, we immersed ourselves in the middle of the city–Hillary and Bernie people swarmed the streets, dark alleys beckoned us into their creepy yet crowd-free walls, and we discovered that Philly bus drivers will go to any length to be kings of the road.

We visited a haunted prison.easternpen

At Villanova University, we attended classes and met many incredible people. Have you ever been in a room full of specular fiction writers? It’s not boring, not for a half-second.

There are changes going on in the publishing world…exciting, risky. Christian specular fiction writers have a very unique place in the world right now–we are forging our place onto bookshelves that don’t know where to categorize us, walking through darker alley’s than many of our writing peers, getting shunned by others, but that’s okay. We’re not ones to follow a crowd.

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God is a lion. He lives inside the hearts of His family, roaring when needed. Here you see His might in my friend, Louise (Furiosa, on the right).

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She came to this conference, lacking hair, full of cancer. For costume night, she showed her inner strength by donning the garb of Furioso. This is a true warrior, full of fight,  Lion roaring.

She goes back home to agonizing treatment, but full of hope. Look into her eyes, her heart. This is the Lion showing the world that we can walk through those dark alleys and survive. We can forge our way into uncomfortable places to where God calls us whether we feel at the top of our game or not.

So keep your head up and tell Monday to beware The Lion.

The Summer Files: Day 68

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Like a tumbleweed, the harried pace of summer has blown over most of the projects I wanted to do with The Children. But we managed to finish our City of Light.

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My cell phone photos don’t do it justice, but light has a way of making it’s point either way.

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It’s easier for me to interpret the world in metaphor than every day vernacular which can make it challenging for me to explain God to them.

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How He chases away darkness. How He’s here whether we see Him or not or if there are days where we only see Him in the beauty He creates, or the glow that accompanies His people that live free.

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Either way, we made a visual and I gave them a true story I hope they remember in the dark of night, the dark of life.

Hope.

Love.

Eternity.

May you remember how to chase away the nightmares.

P.S. If you’re looking for an adventure for the rest of your summer, Wake is on sale this week.

The Summer Files: Day 61

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Our monsoons have gone into hiding. For anyone unfamiliar with this phenomenon, it’s the time of year when the western skies usually cry over us with mercy. Giant teardrops slice through the UV rays, cooling our skin from the constant high-temp bake.

How we miss our summer friend. Insidedom under the ceiling fan is interesting for only so long. How does one stay entertained within 1500 square feet?

The Son has acquired an addiction to Garfield, reading and rereading old Garfield books, telling anyone who listens how funny it is when Odie gets kicked off the table. We have20150526_112129 watched the same library DVD of Garfield’s holidays for the last four days. BTW, it’s Christmas on the farm again. It doesn’t seem to rain there either.

The Daughter has decided she’s a chef now, and will attempt to cook anything she sees on TV. A few mornings ago, I woke to a malodorous cloud of burned egg. “It’s French toast, Mommy. But I couldn’t remember anything but eggs and bread.” And how to take a skillet full of egg off the burner. Too hot to air out the house too. It was 1500 square feet of nasal misery—all day.

Evenings are nice though—at least up high like we are. The skies blow cool kisses—just enough to air out foul smells, and release us from our walled confinement.

But I miss the rain (and the ten drops we got this morning does not qualify as a monsoon), and hope to feel its mercy upon my face before summer ends. Just the smell of it reminds me of childhood days, when a friend and I would curl up inside his screened-in porch and watch the storms roll in with hands full of popcorn and plastic cups of Kool-Aid. Rain is a wonder, a blessing, and downright good entertainment for those who grew up with eyes fixed on the skies rather than on a screen.

May our floors soon be covered in muddy footprints. Blessings for your Monday.