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.

The Summer Files: Day 54

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Our week of green grass and copious amounts of defrizzer has come to a close. Dipping our toes and hugs into the hospitality of the Deep South was just what we needed. The only thing I regret was the cold we brought back with us.

On the return flight home, the man next to me was every bit the gentleman. We discussed the book he was reading, our family reunions and our similar tastes in plane snacks. He offered to share his Cheezits and bag of chocolate-influenced candy; we laughed when I pulled out our own matching crackers and chocolate. When we ran out of conversation, he promptly fell asleep.

And then the southern-acquired cough kicked in. This was no ladies cough. It started

 Every occasion is appropriate for Dr. Pepper

Every occasion is appropriate for Dr. Pepper

with that dreaded tickle deep within my throat–the kind you know is going to last an embarrassing amount of minutes–and erupted into a volcanic spewing monster sort of thing. I tried stifling it in the crook of my arm, my hand, my sleeve. I tried coughing with a drawl in the hopes it would sound more civilized, but I was unsuccessful.

The gentleman next to me, awake now, turned his head away, ever so slightly. His mouth closed, nostrils flared. Obviously, he was trying not to breathe my air.

Every now and then, he turned his eyes toward me in sympathy, but kept his nose and mouth in the cough-free zone.

When my cough finally began its descent toward manageable, he inclined his head toward me, ever so slightly, and asked: “You’re not choking, are you?”

I assured him it was from allergies, which at the time I thought it was. But when my kids started showing symptoms a few days later, I thought of our friend from the plane, hoping he managed to avoid my non-drawl, unladylike, monster-cold. If not, he had plenty of pages from Clan of the Cave Bear to keep him occupied for any sort of cough that may come his way. Such is the curse of airplanes and the blessings of books.

How is your summer winding down? Blessings for your week.

The Summer Files: Day 40

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Soon, we’ll be headed for the Deep South where a beautiful lake, a storybook house, and a family with the drawl await us. In previous years, due to large class sizes and having to do that thing called “taking turns,” The Children have been slow to pick up the art of swimming. Of course, they have a pale-as-the-moon mother who has been instructed by her Dr. to stay out of the sun, and wear long sleeves and…you know…stay pale to avoid further bouts of skin cancer.

But the Deep South includes a lake, so I must charge into the UV rays and teach boat-1480396_1920them how to make friends with the water.

I don’t do “traditional” well, which is probably why, when teaching The Children swim techniques, people stare. Whatever. I call my methods “unique”, and in three weeks, we’ve made more swimming progress than two years of formal swim lessons. The daughter is coming along quite nicely. She now doggie paddles, jumps into the not-quite-deep end of the pool, and rides the pool noodle like a western pool-swimming uncowgirl should.

I’m afraid I’ve developed the forbidden tan on my arms and shoulders. Oops. But my legs that stay submerged in the hobbit end of the pool are still nice and…bright.

The Son is fearful of the water, but we had a breakthrough last week and he will now bravely kick around on things that float and bellow noises born of indigestion. Boys.

In a week, as long as the laptop survives the plane, the rental car, and the reformatting of accents, I will report our southern adventure.

Maybe say a prayer or two, for the skin, the rookie swimmers and the parents who willflyonaplanewithakidafflictedwithirratablebowelandloudnoiseissues. Amen.

The Summer Files: Day 33

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Despite the opinions of some, I do not think watching TV is equivalent to worshiping Satan. In fact, watching shows or movies is common among writers, as we can learn many techniques to capture a reader’s interest. Considering we now have attention spans equivalent to goldfish, waxing on in Dicken’s style doesn’t do it for today’s reader. The awesome must come right away, so we study the screen.

TV time also gives a nice break for us full-time moms (who also work Out There) needing an hour of sanity. Okay, more than one hour would be nice, but I try to be realistic.

Having said that, The Children take on symptoms of Zombiism when getting too much screen time. Their faces fall slack, drool leaks from the corners of their mouths, and when I call their names, they “can’t hear me.”

Now if you live in Arizona, stepping outside after 9am in the summer is risky—the sun has a flare gun, did you know that? It targets many of us in the southwest, aiming at the palest ones first. Sometimes I can hear my skin sizzle. You might even burst into flame, so most of our exercise is done in the early morning and evening.

That means we use our imaginations (not ruined by the so-called evil TV) forhouse those lengthy in-between hours. The Children are coming along with the City of Light. We’ll be finished soon; the only thing we haven’t figured out is where to put it. There are blessings to being less-than-organized; I don’t worry about the details, and it all comes together anyway (I can hear your criticism, structure-experts. Oh, but I am free, free, FREE!).

I didn’t expect to be visited by Thor, Captain America and Iron Man this week, but it was a pleasant surprise. I requested they bring Wonder Woman next time. Why do the female Superheroes always come later?

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Anyway, half of these projects were inspired by scenes from the you-know-what, and for that I’m very thankful. Enjoy your TV week.

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