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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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writing process

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.

The Writing Process: Fishing Serendipity and the Swampland to Serve up Batter-dipped, Panfried Truths

There’s this weird feeling I get sometimes. Like someone has hit a tuning fork — but the tuning fork is my body. And it rings and vibrates. Like a silver spoon hitting chilled stainless. Like ice hitting back molars. Like wintergreen hitting my veins. And the one hitting the tuning fork is the universe. Is God, if you will.

I feel awake and alive and almost raw.

So I go to my computer and I dive into the current of serendipity’s stream. And I pay really careful attention.

Words swirl around me, boomerang back at me like white water rapids. They carry me, roll me, drive me forward. The universe is in charge, and I am on a wild ride. Where I’m going is out of my hands – but I know I’m on the right track.

So I swim. Hard. And fast. To stay inside that current. Not sink beneath it.

Because the universe has given me a gift — it has given me a path and a process. But it has expectations. It has demands. And those demands are rigorous. They are… well… demanding.

This current will take me to my goal, but only with a whole lot of work.

So work, I do. At first I’m cold and rusty, and my mind misfires. A lot. But I remind myself I’m trained for this. I can do this hard thing. I am prepared. And so I just keep kicking, doing my best to stay afloat and follow directions as the words swirl around me, bump up against me.

Inside the current, my mind warms, loosens — perhaps even unravels a bit – allowing flexibility and vision and a bit of slack to reel in the difficult bits, the hard bits. Of life. Particularly, my life. My past.

Because the hard and difficult bits require a whole lot of slack — lest I get too wound up, too tense, and then break the line and lose the way, the truth, and the life. My way. My truth. My life.

Barbara Kingsolver once stated that “memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.” And I totally get it — especially when the memory itself is incredibly complicated, when the truth you are recording — the twisted religion of your formative years — was itself a relative to truth, but not its twin. Maybe not even the same family… or neighborhood. But definitely the same region. My truth fits within the region — the southern region, that is.

The South — where truths become memories, loosely maintained, that become yarns, wildly spun, that become tales, twisty and gnarled.  Where truths become monstrosities.

Here in the land of Faulkner and Flannery, we drill holes in mama’s coffin (and right on through to her face) so she can breathe in the hereafter. We have kinky morticians and corrupt bible salesmen and Presbyterian ax vigilantes. We have deaf mutes and hunchbacks and dwarves – oh my! All so we can safely unearth the darkened roots of our deep-seated insecurities.

Here in the South, we love a little batter on our vegetables and a little gothic on our histories. Sure, maybe raw is better for you – but they taste so much better in a solid bath of debauchery and a heavy dusting of sin. (Minimalist, we are not!)

It’s as much about embellishment as it is about fact here. We hide our tender bits inside hyperbole and the grotesque. The crazier the tale, the deeper the truth.

For me, swimming serendipity’s stream may begin with the exquisite chill of a spoon hitting stainless, but it never fails to dump me where stainless will always fall victim to stain: childhood and the fears and tears that form its fecund swamplands.

The water there is brackish and foul with trash and monsters. Monsters ready to be raised from the near-dead. Demons with watermelon rinds for smiles. Disciples with oily words and cardboard hearts.

I land there each and every time. And after I catch my breath and adjust to the temperature change, I dredge the swamp.

And as the silt and sludge swirls, I bring in my haul — words writhing and thick with hard muscle, slippery sinew, scaly gill. They emerge slowly, but in netfuls, tangled and twisted. Words glinting with a thousand splendid refractions, bending and contorting in the light. Piercing.

I capture them all by capturing my past. Finding the way and the truth from my life.

My biggest and most-tangled of truths thus far — a Pentecostal pastor’s circumcised daughter — flesh faulted and excised amid great ceremony and pain. She emerges from the darkness demanding her reckoning. She flips silver on my screen.

She is forged from the cold steel of serendipity’s stream, humming with the frequency of the tuning fork. The chill of wintergreen hangs in the air… along with the sweetness and rot of the swamp.

I gut her and clean her. I batter-dip her in admonition and intuition and the blood of the Lamb. I sear her on tongues of flame. I lay her on a slaw of shredded scripture. And I serve her up to the world.

+ + +

In the beginning was the word.

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us — howling to be heard. To be seen. To be known.

Ex nihilo.

 

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