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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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writing process

Making a Room of my Own: the Library

Tomorrow marks one full week since moving day – a day that arrived with hurricane force. Literally, in a manner of speaking.

Nine Cartersville Purple Hurricane football players helped get us here. They blessed us with their hearts and their strength. My daughter and son-in-law were here to help too. Without them all, we couldn’t have gotten it done. Words can’t express my love and appreciation.

Since then, we’ve unpacked boxes, set up the kitchen, arranged furniture, assembled beds, unpacked more boxes, unrolled rugs, learned to cook with a toaster ovens (backorder backstory), hung artwork, unpacked more boxes… well, you get the picture. And we’re not done yet. 

But one room is finished: the library. It needed to be. For my sanity and soul’s sake.

A room without books is like a body without a soul

Cicero

Thus spoke Cicero… and he and I, we’re in philosophical agreement.

And this room — it has soul. Lots of it. My daughter and I exhumed an entire library of souls, including Darcy, Dalloway, Celie & Shug, and granted them a new resting place. We even shelved a few who sold theirs — Dorian Gray, Young Goodman Brown, Nathan Price, the Vampire Lestat. And there’ll soon be a new girl named Addie LaRue!

I will feed on these souls like the Vampire Lestat. I will stoke the rich, yellow flame that rests in the seat of my own soul with the content of the greatest of creators. Austen, Walker, Kingsolver, Woolf, and so many, many more. Because, as my famous mentor said:

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

So just this morning, I carved out a couple of minutes to settle in for a seance with the GOAT herself. No, really — Woolf was nicknamed Goat as a child by her family back before GOAT meant what GOAT means today (Nailed it!), and she famously said:

A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.

Well, I now have the room.

A beautiful room where the beauty of the world with its two exquisite edges — laughter and anguish — may ripple and ripen beneath my fingers. A room where my soul sings to me in concert with the souls singing all around me.

Virginia Woolf and I are also in philosophical agreement. A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.

Well, I’ve got one covered so far.

The Haunting Remodel of Hill House: Try, Cry, Why, Try?

Consider this: I’ve never remodeled a house before. I find it daunting. Terrifying. All-consuming. Every whisper. Every waking hour. I’m choosing my possessions. Trying to keep up with it all. 

feel possessed. Paint colors haunt my newsfeeds. Floor choices haunt my thoughts. So many hazards, so many missteps, so much room for error. 

What if all these favorites come flailing around and now I’ve done… too much? 

What if they look garish together? Hideous. What if they clash like a room full of drunk uncles? Like I was drunk myself when I picked them all out? I’m haunted by the possibilities.

Case in point, I found this modern sputnik light fixture with jutting black appendages and amber Edison bulbs. It spoke to me of my inventor father and his love of physics and Russia. It’s destined to orbit over the kitchen table. Still… how will vintage space race get along with an apron sink and schoolhouse pendants above an island not four feet away? 

Can I smash centuries together without causing chaos — a wrinkle in time that destroys the peace of the entire project? 

I hate chaos. I like calm. I like soothing and lyrical. Creamy neutrals. Warm whites, muted golds, flat black. 

But along with that daring sci-fi find, I’ve also discovered a saturated paint color, dark and brooding. And I do like me some dark. 

I guess I like my house like I like my literature — soothing and lyrical, but with an undercurrent of secrets, of storied histories. 

But southern gothic meets science fiction?!? 

Is that even a thing? Should that even be a thing? Because Lord knows, I don’t want farce, and parody is not the look I’m going for. I want original and authentic, full of harmony, but with an undercurrent of designed tension. 

I really want this whole design process to be like writing — chasing the best possible word to build the best possible story. And it sort of is, honestly. It’s full of fun and promise and a whole lot of hard work. And a whole lot of fear, too… Will it be all that I’ve dreamed of? Will it be a success?

But then, it’s not like writing either. Because in writing, at least, you can keep editing — rework your mistakes until you strike the right chord, find that ringing, tonal clarity with the perfect, eclectic mix of characters. The one in the corner. The one in the spotlight. The brooding introvert, the flashy aunt, the absent-minded professor, the plump grandmother handing out gingersnaps and hugs. And then you add that one character. That mysterious outsider who brings tension and electricity. The one who’s losing her religion.

In writing, you’re the boss. If somebody does something out of character, or outside your plotline – they’ve said too much, or haven’t said enough — you strike. Their action or even their entire person. You’re god. 

Or… you’re not. The errant character with the giant misstep takes control. Because her mistake, you discover, is pure poetry. So you let her run with it. You go backwards. Return to chapter two and change the trajectory of the entire piece. Sometimes not being the boss in your writing is okay too.

But this is real life. And life is bigger. And I don’t have that luxury. I don’t have that kind of money — to erase my purchases to accommodate the slip of the century. I wish I did. 

I feel like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, and I don’t know if I can do this. 

Carpe Diem and the Soggy Bits

I woke up this morning at 4:14. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sleep. I’m beyond exhausted. I feel like the soggy bits at the bottom of a garbage disposal… all churned up and left to be washed away. But I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there tossing and turning, trying to quiet my mind. My mushy, damp, mushroom filled mind. 

It wallows in darkness all the time now. After all, this is the year of living with mortality. From the five hundred thousand and counting deaths due to Covid, to the traumatic cardiac event that cost my father his life, to the long-suffering, slow loss of  my aunt, it has been a tough year. 

I was going try to fight through the wakefulness this morning. Try to lie there, mind churning, stirring and slicing my thoughts, leaving me anxious and exasperated. But then I remembered the article I read this week… about how we need quiet time, Me Time. Time with no interruptions, no pressing obligations (well, they’re there… but nothing can really be done about them at 4 AM), and how those simple solitary hours can be some of the most important, and most difficult, to find. Especially for a 54 year- old grieving daughter and niece, who is also the mother of twin soon-to-be-seven year old sons, as well as adult daughters, who still pull at the strings of my heart and the thoughts in my mind, no matter how grown they get. Plus, I’m the wife of a coach getting geared up for spring ball, and the teacher of 160-plus students. In a pandemic year. All of this. In a pandemic year. 

Let me say, this year has shown me why teachers retire after 30 years. I get how if you start your career straight out of college, a dew-skinned, wide-eyed, tenderfoot, that by the time you hit 52, you’re spent. You’ve developed thick skin, side-eyes, and calloused heart. (Let it be known I work hard every single day not to let my heart grow hard. My conscience is a pumice stone, grinding away the calcium deposits and thick skin. But also let it be known that tenderness makes my job way harder. It leaves me wide open to wounds and weeping.) 

But alas for me, I was never a 22 year old teacher. I am a product of a nontraditional trajectory: back to school at 32, graduated at 34, 20 years a teacher, and way beyond spent. Emotionally and mentally. 

And I know it’s not all teaching that’s done it to me — because my nontraditional trajectory didn’t stop at my late-blooming career path. I also decided to have a second set of children, twin boys no less, at 48. Boys who didn’t sleep for sixteen months – which may be partly why (nearly seven years later) I still can’t seem to catch up… and why waking this morning at the ass crack of day’s beginnings was so incredibly insulting.

And I know it’s not all parenting primary-school twin boys that’s exhausted me.  Because the pandemic has saddled me with all sorts of extra weight too… the five-to-ten pounds worth of stress eating because, hell, carpe diem, for tomorrow we may… well, you know. I mean, after all, 500,000 have, plus my father and aunt. And then there’s the return of teenaged acne from the fabric masks I wear faithfully, and the lack of smiles from my students (maybe just because I can’t see them under their own faithfully-worn masks or maybe because they aren’t smiling either). And the continual waves of students leaving for quarantine and returning from quarantine. And my asynchronous classroom adaptations so hopefully they don’t feel as lost and forlorn as I do. But they do…

And I know it’s not all pandemic. Because I’m also executor to my father’s estate. Which means I haven’t had time to truly mourn because I’m dealing with the load and stress and anxiety of dealing with finances and legal matters that are completely alien to my being. It’s like handing a toddler a buzzing chainsaw and telling her to clean out the underbrush. It’s too heavy. There’s way too much room for error. There’ so much I could do wrong. Chop down the ancient oak or the beautiful dogwoods, get tangled up in poison ivy, raze my legs right out from under me.

I need supervision every step of the way. And thank heavens I’ve had it. I have a family of experts in various arenas and they’ve all lent a hand. Me, all I’m good at is the grunt work. The clearing of the debris. I guess that’s why I have the chainsaw, after all. But, have mercy!

So here I am, typing away my innermost thoughts on my computer (at now, 6 AM), the warm glow of a lamp next to me, warm coffee in my favorite mug,and nothing to keep me company but the quiet hum of the boys’ white noise machines and the keyboard recording my inner-most thoughts. 

And not gonna lie, it’s kinda nice. (Not saying nice enough to attempt on a daily basis because, by GOD, I’m running on dregs.) But still, kinda nice. Like the distinct pleasure of low tide. There are tiny, sparkling bits of peace unearthed or deposited there in the newborn damp.

I guess there are gems to be found in the soggy bits once the churning has paused after all. 

So, right now, I’m actively searching for them. I’m using these newborn, wet moments of my day to write my memoir, to chase my future. To birth yet another nontraditional career inside the trajectory of my nontraditional life. 

I’m believing in myself. For at least a hot minute — before the sun comes up and the boys wake up and the day’s demands start rising again… leaving me fighting for life. Not just my life, but all life. My boys’, husbands’, girls’, students’, society’s. 

It makes for an exhausted life. But a worthy one. So carpe diem it is.

Death’s Door and Other Existential Thoughts

Death steals everything but our stories.

Jim Harrison

I heard that line on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and it stuck with me. It’s the final line of a poem called “Larson’s Holstein Bull,” about a young girl gored in a pasture. It really speaks to me — as in, it speaks lies to me.

Because unless we record our stories, Death steals those too.

In the last three months I’ve lost two loved ones — and countless stories. Their stories. And my own.

I’ve had massive writer’s block. I try to dive in. I try to ride the smallest wave of an idea. It fizzles and fails. I fizzle and fail.

And then there’s all the stories of theirs that I’ve lost.

My father’s stories, wrapped up in gullible goodness and bland bouillabaisse. He told fishy tales. Suspect ones, full of adult idealism and fairy tale naivete. If he were a character in a comic, neon bubbles would circle his words — citrus and magenta shades for his grandiose schemes and shooting star aspirations. Don Quixote tilting at windmills — so chivalrous and sometimes so sad. Folks took advantage of his inert, innate goodness. Neighbors took advantage. I wish I could remember the details. I’d hold them accountable for their sins. But I tuned him out, so I’m holding myself accountable.

And then there’s my aunt’s stories. Stories of her ER escapades; the trauma bay dramas. The bludgeonings, bullet wounds, foreign object removals. Those foreign object ones were my favorite of hers, and she had so many. The fellow arriving in an ambulance still sitting in his driver’s seat, impaled by tomato stakes. The fellow arriving with the ice pick through his brain, talking, animated; until he wasn’t. The naked sunbather wheeled in on a trifold vinyl lawn chair, his testicles entangled and swollen amongst a twisted nest of spaghetti tubing. I wish I could remember the specific details of those stories, her blue lilac eyes, so animated as she recounted them; until they weren’t. Until dementia dulled them. Her eyes and her stories. And the details were gone.

So many stories tuned out. The soundtracks of their lives, the background noise of ours. And now they’re gone… and I can’t remember.

Remembrance. It’s a motif in Hamlet that pairs with the theme of “What Happens After We Die.” Legacy. The Ghost, Hamlet’s father, begs him: Remember me. Hamlet begs Horatio, his most loyal confidante, to tell his story: Report me and my cause aright.

And that’s what I need to do too. I need to tell their stories. Report them and their cause aright. And mine too. Before it’s too late. Before it’s all lost forever, behind death’s door.

Because that Harrison poem’s FIRST line is a doozy too:

Death waits inside us for a door to open.

Damn. What a line. What a truth.

That Harrison poem speaks lies AND truths. Which is why it really, really speaks to me. Right now. At this moment. This moment where death’s doors have shut so recently on those I love so dearly. And because none of us is getting out of here alive. There is a door waiting, a doorknob made of flesh just waiting for the twist.

Morbid, I know. But then, Life is morbid. And what happens after we die is why Shakespeare wrote in the first place. And Spenser. And Keats. And any author, really. (Me too. That’s why I write too.) To tell our stories, and to be remembered.

But I have let my loved ones down. I should have listened more. I wish I’d listened more.

But I’m telling my story. Stories. All of them. And I’ll keep at it till I get them right, writer’s block be damned. It seems the devil really is in the details… but get behind me, Satan. I’m ready to dance.

Because the rest, as Shakespeare says, is silence.

And here’s that poem in its entirety, for those of you who want lies and truths to rattle you as well…

“Larson’s Holstein Bull,” by Jim Harrison

Death waits inside us for a door to open.
Death is patient as a dead cat.
Death is a doorknob made of flesh.
Death is that angelic farm girl
gored by the bull on her way home
from school, crossing the pasture
for a shortcut. In the seventh grade
she couldn’t read or write. She wasn’t a virgin.
She was “simpleminded,” we all said.
It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.
She’s lived in my memory for sixty years.
Death steals everything except our stories. 

So I blog…

My full-time jobs keep me up to my eyeballs in busyness. Motherhood, teaching, wifedom. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for writing. But writing keeps me true to me. To the spark that makes me, me.

I am a writer. I was born a writer. It’s just taking me a long time to get there. I have a book I’ve been working on for a couple of decades now. But Life kinda took hold of my writing hands and put an Expo marker in them and a whole bunch of students in front of me.

And then Life kinda took hold of my writing hands… and took one ring off them, filled them full with adventures and struggles — and eventually a new ring and three new male hands to hold — all producing lots and lots of real world fodder in front of me.

But just not a lot of time to write about it. And definitely not a lot of time to devote to that book.

So I blog. It keeps me plugged into my creativity and my passion for words. It helps me record my progress as a teacher, a twin mom, a veteran mom, a citizen of this great and currently tumultuous country, and a human.

Blogging is also how I sort through my thoughts — on my past, my present, and my future. It helps me filter and find my way through so many things. To dig deep and sift and sort. I find my kernels of truths. My truths. Sometimes others share them. Sometimes not.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still share. Sharing connects us. Sharing smiles, sharing hugs (some day again soon, I pray!), sharing feelings, sharing stories.

I love sharing stories the most. I love hearing about the events, the small and large, that unspool inside the lives of my friends and family. And I love telling mine.

But I’m shy. And I’m awkward. And feel like I’m hogging the stage when nobody really wants me up there. So I tend not to talk much, especially in crowds.

So I share my stories in my blog. Where folks can choose to read them… or not.

And I share my stories so I can feel like I’m doing what I was born to do, which is write.

So while my I spin crazily through the joys of family and teaching and life, and while I spin crazily through the dark and tangled mysteries of life — I blog.

This is my sixth year of doing so. I’m proud of that. I’ve kept myself disciplined. I’ve paid attention to the details, the tiny whorls and ridges of my life and her events. And I’ve written about them.

And maybe some people feel like its weird, or self-absorbed, or uncalled for, or they roll their eyes or run their mouths about it. That’s their prerogative. It may sting a bit, no lie. But I’m still going to do it. Because the one good thing about blogging is nobody else has to pay it any mind. And honestly, if I’m going to become the butt of jokes, I prefer they not.

But I’m still going to put myself out there.

Because it keeps my spark lit. The spark I was born with. Each of us has one — a spark and passion, a gift created just for us. Whether its playing the piano, throwing a football, painting landscapes, counseling hearts, tending vegetables, decorating interiors, stitching needlepoint… there’s so many tiny gifts we can hone and nurture to keep us healthy and happy.

But some of us lose them along the way. I am determined not to lose mine. I am determined to keep its flame burning, even if what I produce is tiny and seemingly inconsequential. It’s not so to me.

And so, I write. I blog. I put words to screen. I do it diligently. Baby steps. Especially now, while my heart is struggling to find lightness again. While I’m too much in darkness to do much work on my big work. The work I am determined to unearth in the end.

So I blog.

the magic (and power) of words

Whether being driven to the Jitney Jungle with Mom or into the presence of God with Dad, I learned from a young age what words could do. My mother was a music major, and when she sang “Ave Maria” in the car, she opened up their magic. My father was a self-made preacher man and when he prophesied in our living room, he unhinged their power.

And while some people prefer the power, I prefer the magic of words. And believe me, there’s a world of difference.

Magic is revealed. Power is wielded. One shows itself to you. The other strips you bare — or does its best. Enlighten. Or ensnare. That’s what words can do.

And lately, against my better health and judgement, I’ve been caught up in the contagious power of words. In the feverish state of negativity running rampant right now. I’ve grown flush with fear and anxiety. Words have wielded their weight on me, and I’ve wielded out weighty ones of my own. And my recent blogs have been a result of that fever. And I’m sorry about that.

That’s not usually who I am. I’m generally an eternal optimist — an alchemist who tries to turn iron into gold. To dig around in the dark till I find the dawn. But social and news media’s words of contagious power got me.

Thank heavens a good friend recognized my symptoms, cautioned me against getting caught up, and prescribed the appropriate cure: Books.

In my cul-de-sac cult days, when things went all catawampus, I read books to escape. Words with magic to counteract the words of power being catapulted at me. Books sheltered and shielded me. They took me away from my reality.

Emily Dickinson, who self-cloistered for nearly her entire adult life, still enjoyed getting away from the four walls that both protected and penned her in. By reading.

She claimed “there is no frigate like a book/ to take us lands away,” and I agree. And what better thing to do while we’re self-cloistering (so much more poetic than “social distancing”) inside walls that protect and pen us in, than set sail on the pages of a book?

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, has been my cure. It’s helped me rediscover the sweet magic of words again, which is what I desperately needed. But it’s also helped me remember the sweet magic of this universe and my part in it.

Gilbert’s words are positive and playful and they encourage us all to find the “strange jewels” planted in our souls by the universe. Some of us will rise to the challenge of unearthing those gems, she says, and some of us are content to sit back and let them simmer unseen.

These last few weeks, sitting at home on my couch, its been easy to turn slack and cynical and to leave the magic simmering somewhere. But her words are nudging me back toward action and light.

Big Magic’s subtitle is Creative Living Beyond Fear — and that’s exactly what I need right now — a way to move beyond fear and into a positive creative state. To go on my spiritual scavenger hunt to find the words truest to me. Words of love and inspiration and persistence.

Because words are my hidden jewels. My magic. I love to twirl them like pinwheels till they flicker and flash. To sharpen and shape them into glittering strings of paper dolls prose. To fling them like stardust into the nebula of my brain and see what riches take flight.

I need to remember to play with them again. Not wallow in them. To relish in their magic, not fall beneath their power.

And if you feel the same way, I highly recommend you giving Gilbert’s Big Magic a read.

She’ll help you find and reclaim your birthright.

dancing in the dark: a writing metaphor

Do you ever feel ugly and unseen? Like despite all your best efforts and your showing up to the dance without fail, all prepped and prissy, you still somehow blend into the cinderblock gym wall?

I’ve been battling with that lately. I put in the work, I give it my all, I practice and polish and pirouette in what I think is on par with the rest of the partygoers, and still nobody calls my name.

Despite my best efforts, nobody gets me.

I’m awkward maybe? A little off the current beat. Half a step ahead? Behind?

Am I not authentic enough? Is that what it is? Am I unapproachable? Do I appear fake? or overdone? shallow?

Are my curls too tight? Do they get lost in the whirling nonsense of it all? Never-ending loops of purple prose that make folks feel queasy and upended?

Or am I too straightforward? Too stark? Do I cut to the chase too quickly. Nobody’s ready for that revelation. It’s too sharp. The razor-like edges cutting at the truth they hold cushioned in their souls with such reverence.

That’s never popular, I know — to challenge somebody’s security. To show them an abyss where fear and pain are always lurking a scant foot away and maybe prompt them to leave their religion or stay with the beast in the ballgown.

It’s never too popular to pull alarms when all anybody really wants to do is just dance.

Or maybe it’s because I speak with too much color? Swear too much? Too often? Take things in vain that they feel I shouldn’t?

Or is it more that I’m one of those people impossible to follow? Who stutters and stalls or rambles my way into slippery little sidesteps of fluid nothingness? So I’m absolutely zero fun to follow.

Do I question too much? Too many things? Am I too challenging? Am I ruffling too many feathers? Stirring up too much shibboleth? It’s kind of something I tend to do.

Yeah, I tend to pour it on too thick. I fail to blend my blush.

Or maybe…

Oh, honestly, I really don’t know what it is about me. But I do know I don’t like the feeling. Of no-one making eye contact. Of no one acknowledging I exist. Of feeling like the girl shoved over there in the corner — the one everybody knows really wants to be a part of it all. They all know she really has something to say, but everybody also thinks what she’s got to say isn’t what anybody really wants to hear because it’s going to be one of two things — an uncomfortable truth or some sort of sentimental bullshit.

That’s where I’m at, and that’s what I’m feeling lately. And I somehow have to get through it. I have to find some strength and some faith in myself and who I am and what I’m doing. I have to believe that I am good enough to be here. I am not somebody to ignore.

Don’t skate your eyes around so you don’t have to see me.

Look at me. I am here and I am a force to be reckoned with.

This dance is my destiny. I am here by choice.

And I am dancing a brilliant and beautiful number that nobody even knew existed.

So I will just keep on dancing like no ones watching. Because right now, no one is.

But I’ll keep my pockets full of proses, dancing in the dark where you think you don’t have to see. Where you watch me with sidelong glances while I prove you wrong and pull my weighted words out into the light you try so hard to deny me.

I am here. And one day you will hear me. See me. Dance with me.

My kind of Sexy

…is a summertime morning striptease. (It’s not what you think. Tell my husband not to get too excited.)

Summer mornings are my favorite. Especially ones like today. Do-nothing mornings — where I can sit and watch the fog drift in wisps on the silvery light — moth-wings light, lamb’s wool light, low-slung and easy.

I love to watch the sky unwind those ribbons of lambs-wool light, to slowly unwrap the earth — a long, sensual striptease revealing round, lush tree tops, and soft, dripping foliage.

The katydids swell with approval, the birds erupt in chorus, a woodpecker pulses the beat.

Somewhere amid the clover, a bee, slow from his overindulgence on nectar the night before, treads water in the liquid air. Not quite ready to start his day, not quite ready to get busy.

I get it. It’s so easy to overindulge in the potent nectar of these perfect summer days. The sun is long and tempting, and nature bursts free of her seams. She is hot and completely undone.

Gardens grow blousy with feverish growth and roadsides explode, keeping pace.

And we, as humans, we just want to imbibe. There is just so much fun to be had. Trails. Rivers. Beaches. Pools. Family. Friendship. Fireworks. Fun.

Like the wings of the hummingbirds at my feeder, summer is a blur of glittering seconds, so fast you can only see where it’s been, rarely standing still to see the up-close-and-perfect detail.

We cram action, hummingbird style, into layers and layers of summertime fun. Time is a frenzy most days.

But this morning I’m taking it slow. Because slow is my kind of sexy.

My boys — they get bored. All three of them. They like action. They like fun. And to them, sitting still and soaking it all in is a far cry from fun. So they’ve gathered up their things and taken off to the pool.

But me, I’m saddled up in this morning, eager to sit for a spell. Literally. Waiting for a spell. For creativity to light, to take up my fingers, to tickle my keyboard, and to unchain my mind.

And it takes awhile. The words appear slow, a tantalizing striptease.

Tendrils of misty promise, backlit by vision, fuzzy and opaque, flit about, flirting with my senses. Then, slivers of clarity — a single word, tweaked and pulled to a taut, perfect pearl. More coaxing ensues, until finally, big, rounded handfuls of glittering splendor are revealed. Eager and pliable. Hot and ready to couple and link.

It takes time to tease words into the light –to convince them to unveil their secrets and put themselves on full display.

And time is a frenzy most days.

But today, even the hummingbirds have slowed their windspeed. They defy their nature and perch at the feeder. Drinking deeply. Soaking in the sweet syrup of summertime.

It is — or was — a beautiful, do-nothing morning, succulent and ripe, and ready to open, to yield her secrets beneath my eager persistence.

But now. Now our time together is done. The show is over. Life demands my attention more than my words.

But as always, I’m left yearning for more. And that is my kind of sexy.

Keeping the Faith and Following the Signs

Remember lucky pencils from elementary school? The ones your teachers would give you so you would ace those standardized tests?

Well, I have a lucky pencil. It’s an old-fashioned #2 pencil. It’s a deep, slate blue #2 pencil. It’s got gold lettering on the side. And a simple, profound message: TELL YOUR STORY.

It arrived n the mail last year when I ordered a children’s story for my boys, a book about building tree houses from Magnolia Market— the world-renowned Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market, the same Magnolia Market to which I had entered (and not won), a writing contest earlier that spring.

I took that pencil as a sign.

A sign that somebody over there in the land of Magnolia milk and honey had remembered me and my writing and decided to send along some manna from Magnolia to encourage and sustain me along my writing journey through the wilderness.

And while odds are that was not the case, and odds are that my inspirational magic pencil was quite simply a gift-with-purchase that every patron receives, I like to think otherwise. I like to think it is special. Because my words — and my story — are special. That’s what I like to think.

Only now,  my magic pencil is gone.

I noticed its absence yesterday morning while applying my eyeliner.

Normally, my magic pencil hangs out in my bathroom in a ceramic container along with my toenail clippers and eyebrow scissors. (I don’t actually WRITE with it. It’s a symbol. A sign. A powerful promise, if you will.) And so it sits prominently in my line of vision (or it did until yesterday), reminding me every day to do what it commands me to do.

And some days, I notice the message has twisted round to where I can’t see it, so I rotate my promise, feeling its hexagonal planes shift beneath my thumb and forefinger, until I can see it again. Because I need to see it daily. I need reminding. Daily.

Especially lately, when my words seem to get lost in the frantic shuffle of my busy teaching and twin-mom world. Lately my words have been getting harder and harder to find, and once found, to put in some semblance of order.

And even when I do manage to round them up — recently in rather ramshackle fashion — I don’t know that they really make much of an impact at all…

So I need my sign, my writing-on-the-writing-utensil sign, shipped from some random, nameless, faceless true believer of both me and my story out in Waco-turned-Canaan, Texas (intentional or otherwise.)

Because me… sometimes I don’t believe. Sometimes I lose my faith.

And now, tragedy has struck. My magic pencil has gone missing. And I’ve looked everywhere. And my husband has looked everywhere. (And he’s much better at finding things than I am. He found me in the eleventh hour after all, and saved me from drought and famine, and I am forever in his debt.)

So my magic pencil has gone missing and I see this as an ominous sign. And I’m a firm believer in signs. But then, you already know that.  So I guess that means…

Okay. Wait.

This is going to be hard to believe, but I swear to you it is the God’s honest truth…

Just as I closed my computer, thinking I was pretty much done with my blog (as well as my entire storytelling career), my youngest son bent down at a spot we had all gone over with a fine-tooth comb and exclaimed…

“Mama, is this your pencil?”

Why, yes. Yes it is.

And since I’m a firm believer in signs… I guess I know what I have to do now. I have to obey.

So I’m sending this story — and many, many more — out into the universe.

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