Writing Assignment - Lazarus

He stepped out of the pickup and the bright, hot winds surrounded him, an oven of scorched air and burnt sand. His thirst consumed him; it had been his only thought for miles, and now that his truck lay dead in a heap, the feeling of helpless isolation magnified his leathered tongue all the more.

He walked to the back of the pickup and lowered the tailgate, its metal skin burning his hands. A wind gust picked up a bucketful of desert sand and threw it unmercifully into his eyes. He swore as his hands flew to his eyes. Nature was exacting some sort of revenge, although he did not know what he had done to deserve such treatment.

The relentless onslaught of wind and sand whipped at him, and he shielded his eyes with his arm and used his free hand to drag the small ice chest toward him. One warm bottle of water remained inside, floating in a small, dirty pool of water. He grabbed the bottle from its home and, in a desperate attempt to cool his overheated body, dumped the water that remained in the cooler over his head.

Relief swept through him for a brief moment, but was quickly replaced by regret: the infernal heat robbed him of all moisture as soon as the water hit his skin, and he realized that he had just wasted half of his already meager water supply. He cursed his stupidity and returned to the cab of the truck, slamming the door against the barrage of the desert.

Uncapping the water, he resisted the urge to guzzle down the entire bottle, instead allowing himself one small sip. Water had never tasted so decadent; he suddenly understood the parable of the rich man in hell who begged for one drop of water to cool his tongue. He took another sip and relished its wetness.

He had to get out of here. He scanned the horizon, sizing up his situation. Before him lay an endless sea of sand and sky, uniform in color and texture. His options were limited: he could wait for someone to chance upon him, which, gauging scope of the terrain, could take days or weeks; or he could walk, which seemed equally futile.

He leaned back into the seat and settled in for a long wait. He would remain here until he could do so no longer.


Home Stretch

I have reached that frustrating point in NaNoWriMo in which I am so close, yet so far away.

I now have 3452 words left until I am an official nanowrimo winner. Technically, I can finish tonight -- if I really push myself and write like mad for the next several hours.

But I'm also at the point in the story where the climax needs to be good, not crappy, and I'm afraid that if I push through just to get it done, it will suck. I'm driven to hit that 50,000 mark as soon as possible, and seeing my little blue progress bar so close to the finish is making me nuts.

So I've forced myself to stop, take a break, go work out and process some things, and come back fresh for the finish tomorrow.

It's funny how things work when you are writing. I don't know if it's a matter of paying better attention to the universe, being tuned in, so to speak, or if it's just Divine help, but as I've been going about my day, I've had some nuggets of help for my story. For example, my MC lost her brother when she was five years old. This afternoon, over lunch, I picked up my December issue of Self magazine -- a fitness magazine, of all things -- and there was an article written by a woman reflecting on the death of her older brother when she was a kid. Well.

Even as I sit here and type, I am restraining myself from opening my Word document and jumping back into the story. I really, really, really want to.

It will be better tomorrow. Maybe I will make an event out of it tomorrow... I think of the main character in "Misery," who has his post-writing ritual of one cigarette, a glass of wine, and something else. Maybe I'll have a piece of chocolate, some coffee, and download a song I've been coveting. Wait... that's my "during-writing" ritual. Hmmm.

Well, whatever.

Cheer me on... I need some friendly faces at that finish line! :)


Dickens and the Idea of Christmas

So we went to Dickens on Main tonight in downtown Boerne. It was fun. It's my favorite part of living in Boerne, when they block off main street, the quaint little main street shops stay open late, and the whole town comes out to walk the street and drink coffee and socialize. The streets are lined with Christmas lights and snow machines which blow snow every hour on the hour, they blare Christmas music, and it's fabulously cozy. It's small town life at its best. It was a great way to kick off the Christmas season.

Today has been a good day for me. I've been a little self-possessed lately with this business of book writing, and I did get my writing in this morning, but today was my day to catch up with friends whom I haven't seen in awhile. I went to a small get-together at Flo's house this morning and had fun catching up with her, her daughters, and my friend Sarah Hinton, whom I haven't seen in a couple of years. This afternoon, Sarah Dowling came over for coffee and we had a great time catching up. It was nice to connect again. I don't get to do that very often.

I am 6000 and change from finishing my NaNovel. I am looking at different ways to wrap it up, and hoping I can do so in 6000 words. Actually, I'm sort of forcing myself to do that, because, from what I understand, a 50,000 word rough draft is good since you end up adding around 30,000 words during the revision process. It will be really great to finish -- I never thought I'd get this far -- but I am completely in love with writing now, so I am afraid I'm going to feel a little lost for a few days when it's over.



Off of work for the next four days. I am hoping that it will give me opportunities to really beef up my word count, if not finish completely. I'd love to be able to validate my nanonovel by Saturday! I am looking forward to hitting the 50k mark, but I really don't want it to end, because the act of writing has been so exhilarating.

But my "carrot" that I am dangling before myself is a subscription to Writer's Village, an internet writing school for which I will sign up at the end of this crazy project. I'm hungry, I have a lot to learn, and I think it will be a good way to "fill the well" again.

I'm going to schedule a few sprints today in between other activities, setting the timer and writing as many words as I can in twenty minute bursts.

Off to the races....


Thirty-two Thousand

I am two-thirds done!!

This experience has been the most fulfilling, most liberating experience I have ever taken on creatively. I am reveling in the process, not caring about the crappy prose or the loose ends that are falling off of the pages in a huge, beautiful mess. This experience has taught me that I can do it if I just get my butt in the chair and write. What a concept!

So I have no idea if this novel will ever be read by anyone... I don't know if I want it to be read by anyone. It's enough for me to know that I tried, I did it, and it's the first step towards something I never dreamed I could do. I'm in love with the process! I haven't felt this creatively fulfilled since we recorded our last CD -- actually, in many ways, I feel more fulfilled now than I did then.

Sorry to gush. Just had to get it out.


words are numbers.

geez louise.

i've almost reached the 28,000 mark in my nano. i have never written anything this long before. it's nuts.

so i have become stuck. my mc is losing her marbles and has taken the other character hostage, and the villain has just entered the scene. i'm really wrestling with not making him too cliche. all i keep finding myself writing instinctively are the cliche scenes in every james bond movie, where the villain, who is always dressed in black slacks and a black turtleneck, swishes his scotch in his glass and says, "well, well, well, mr. bond. how nice of you to drop in." my villain REALLY wants to do that. he is not going to have the opportunity. but i'm stuck in the meantime. maybe i'll have him dance a jig while he's waiting on my to come up with something earth-shaking.



i have written 5863 words today. i am tired. brain is fried. must...go...read something.


Nanowrimo Synchronicity

So I'm beginning my third day as a Freshman Nanowrimo novelist. It's cool. I am right at my daily word goal, and I have more material in my morning pages that just need a home within the novel. Morning Pages have been very effective these past couple of days, because they afford the opportunity to work out plots and ideas without having to commit everything to the novel right away. Fabulous.

The biggest thing, so far, that I have noticed as I have been settling in on my story, is that it seems like the Universe is cooperating with my efforts and giving me little nuggets to help me along. For example, my character had no name for the first six pages. I came to a point in my story where she met someone and actually had to introduce herself, and I couldn't settle on a name. That day, I heard the name "Natalie" at least six times in various settings and situations -- a caller on the radio talk show I was listening to, on the phone with someone, on myspace, in passing at Starbucks. It was an obvious "nudge" that that was the name my character was supposed to have.

And my story takes place in England... the main character is there as an expatriate of sorts, and I am having to rely on my memories of England from ten years ago as I'm writing. Yesterday, I went with everyone from the office to a place for lunch in Ingram, and it was, of all things, an English tea room. It couldn't have been more authentic. And for lunch, we were served high tea, so I was literally given this amazing setting with all the trappings of England, and with all the nuances of the very English decor that most Americans just can't duplicate well, right in the middle of my day yesterday. It was crazy. It couldn't have been more authentic had I hopped a plane, landed in Birmingham, driven to Stow-on-the-Wold, and written from a tea room there. Brilliant.

So I feel as if I am being "guided" as I write this thing, and it feels good. It's been a great start. I am looking forward to having a block of time today to really devote to my Nano... hopefully I can get ahead of the word count quota today.



So I have undertaken this ridiculous venture of attempting to write an entire novel in one month.

This is ludicrous for several reasons:

1. I do not have time to write a novel... especially not in November.
2. I have never written a novel.
3. I do not know the first thing about writing novels.
4. People will think that I suck.

I am actually encouraged, though. I told myself that, if nothing else, I will have a really crappy first draft, which is what Anne Lamott says that you have to get on paper first. So I am giving myself permission to just write, not edit, not worry about plot. Just write.

I am 3300-plus words into this thing, and already my censors are screaming.




I am choosing to ignore. I will write. The goal is to get 50,000 words out by November 30. That will be the longest thing I have ever written. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment, I think.

Revision can happen later. I'm going to write a novel. It may totally suck. I'm going to do it anyway. Better to do it badly than to never have done it at all.


good enough.

All of my life I've been told that I'm not good enough. It began, really, when I was 14. My dad had just died, my grades slipped, and what was formerly parental concern became parental criticism in the harshest of ways. I wasn't given room for my "reactionary C's" -- I was, instead, yelled at, belittled, grounded, treated unfairly. What could have been normal discipline was taken to the extreme. It got out of hand.

From there, The Voice began to criticize everything I did. If I wanted to sing (which I did, all the time; it was my newfound talent and therefore my newest passion), I was criticized because singers never made any money. How would I support myself? If I wanted to be with friends or talk on the phone, I wasn't spending enough time with my family. If I wanted to go to church, I was judged and told that I was only going for social reasons. If I made a decision at church or went down to the altar to pray, I was criticized for "making some sort of decision and not living up to it" if I happened to get impatient with my brother on the way home in the car.

Nothing I ever did was right. I tried so hard. I didn't want to please The Voice -- I had learned that that was futile -- but I tried my very best to please God. The Voice had plenty to say about that, too.

So I learned to "go stealth" with my inner life. I learned to close off to my family, because I couldn't trust them. I learned that if I let them see what was going on between God and me, it would be belittled, criticized, mocked. Something would be wrong with what I was doing. I had to protect the very precious relationship that was growing between God and me. And so it became *just* God and me, and that was okay.

To this day, I have a very, very hard time living out my faith in front of my husband. I feel uncomfortable praying in front of other people. The Voice still haunts me. I hear it daily.

The Voice affected me in other ways, too; the most obvious "thorn in my flesh" that has resulted from the influence of The Voice is that I never feel that anything I do measures up. I don't even know who I am trying to please; all I know is that everything I put my hand to, be it writing, singing, acting, my faith, my marriage, my parenting skills, my relationship with God, my relationships with others, is constantly under the scrutiny of The Voice. I have always felt that I am sub-par, that I will never be good enough. Other people have more talent, more drive, more discipline, more support. I don't have those things, and never will, so I'll never amount to anything. I'm doomed to be known as the girl who was "almost good" at what she did, but never could quite attain the level of skill needed to succeed.

It is a bleak outlook, I know. It has handicapped me my entire life. Sometimes it is a convenient excuse; other times it is a curse. I compare myself, my work, my success, to others, and am filled with self-loathing and despair. I'll never be good enough. I'll never make it. The Voice was right.

I had a revelation this morning. It was lovely: When I see my inadequacies, when I see the line in each area of my life where my talent ends, the line that I feel I can never get past, I have always been blinded by that line. And I was struck by the fact that everyone has a line; no one has limitless talent. The people I am constantly using as a measuring rod to chalk up my failures also have a line where their talent ends. I just can't see their line. Only they can. And only I can see my line. I have always felt that my line is big and black, obvious to all. It's not, just like theirs is not obvious to me.

I have been forgetting (or choosing to ignore) Who stands on the other side of that line to pick up the slack. Where my talent ends, the limitless resources of God begin. I can't, and He never said I could. But He can, and has always said that He would. And when I learn to embrace my wretchedness, my unworthiness, my inability, that is when His worthiness and ability can take over.

Philippians 4:13 in the Amplified Bible puts it this way:

"I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]."

What a relief! God gave me my talents and abilities, but He never expected me to be perfect, or even "good enough." He knows I can't. I pray that I can learn to hear His Voice above the paralyzing Voice of the enemy.


Hillbilly Fit Club

I've become a workout junkie of late; it happens every couple of years, when, after living a lifestyle that consists mostly of eating out, I step on the scale and nearly pass out from the shock at how much I've gained.

This scale shock happened to me about a year ago, but due to my crazy schedule, I was unable to do much about it. That, and I was on the verge of committing harey-carey, and when one is in such a mental state, one does not want to exercise.

When I took the new job in August, one of the perks was a corporate membership at a health club. I had already begun running again, but I decided that I would use the health club to do my weight training as well as a backup if I wasn't able to run on a particular day.

After signing up, I was excited about having access to treadmills, spinning classes, free weights, etc., so I packed my gym bag and went for my first workout.

Now, I've been a member at other health clubs, so I know the drill. My last membership was at Gold's Gym, where all the women are tiny and wear makeup to their workout class, and all the guys are young, muscle-bound, and use the gym as a place to prove their manly strength. They are the guys who, when you meet them on the street, manage to work into the conversation, "Yeah, I work out." (Duh. I couldn't tell from your obnoxiously huge pecs...or by the simple fact that you are wearing bicycle shorts.)

The health club in Kerrville, however, is a bit different. Kerrville is predominantly a retirement community; therefore, the gym at noon is literally filled to the brim with elderly people. It's weird. I walked into the club expecting to be (as usual) intimidated by the little girls with no thighs who walk around in their sports bras. I was surprised to find it filled instead with old men wearing shorts, black socks, and loafers on the treadmills, old women in swimsuits (eek!), and working class guys upstairs in the weight room in jeans and, yes, believe it or not, cowboy boots. COWBOY BOOTS! I looked around and thought, "What have I stepped into?" Many of my body image issues immediately vanished. Relief ensued.

And then, it happened: I went into the locker room.

God help us all.

I am not sure if it happens with age, but at some point, there is a threshold that is obviously reached with old women at which they no longer care who sees them in whatever state of undress they may be. Apparently, when I entered the locker room, I did so at a time when a class had recently let out, and so it was wall to wall with old women walking around COMPLETELY UNCLOTHED. It was a nightmare.

I had to take a shower. I was growing increasingly uncomfortable. Obviously, the protocol here is blatant, unabashed nudity. I am not into this. I walk around fully covered in my own house when I am all alone. I have always been a modest, if not just plain prudish, person. My routine in the locker room is to take a shower, dry off, wrap up in a towel, get dressed under my towel behind the curtain... I do not want to make anyone suffer with having to see any more of me than I would want to see of myself, which is really not much more than an elbow. To me, it's common courtesy. Really, I'm doing everyone a public service. Good manners and all that.

These women... good gosh. You know the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and George discuss "good naked" and "bad naked?" Yeah. Not only are these women parading themselves around, talking to their best friends while (gulp) bending over to dry off, but then they sit down on the benches buck naked and put on their clothes, because they are too old to get dressed standing up. I vowed then and there never to touch or set anything of my personal belongings on those benches.

I made it through my getting-ready routine, grabbed my bag, and ran for dear life to the nearest exit. My eyes still haven't recovered.

I was sharing my woes with my boss, who is a fitness junkie like me, and telling him how icky I felt after leaving the health club each time. He graciously invited me to join his club in Boerne, and hooked me up with a three month membership. I have been rescued. Fitness in Boerne is a stark contrast to the perils of the club in Kerrville. No naked old ladies. No bubbas in cowboy boots. It's yuppies galore, and, praise God, I'll trade skinny, makeup-clad rich women with more collagen than Joan Rivers any day for the trauma I endured in Kerrville.


Youth Specialties Part 1

I promised myself I would take the time to blog during the Youth Specialties conference this year. I promised myself the same last year and never got around to it. Since I have my own laptop this time, it's a little easier.

We got here yesterday, and are (thankfully) staying in the hotel adjacent to the convention center. We brought Punky with us, so the ability to come back to the room often is really nice.

We are learning that there are four types of youth pastors. It's pretty comical, actually -- it's like they went to a class to learn how to be that particular "flavor." What's funny is that I know one of every type, so every time we see someone that matches the "type," we look at each other and say, "Look, there's Andrew again," or, "Look, there goes Blake!" The Four Types are as follows:

First, there's Shaved Head Youth Pastor. This guy is actually not a youth pastor, but a "Minister To Students." His favorite clothier is Old Navy. Flip flops are a staple in his wardrobe. Backpacks and baseball caps are the favored accessories. Loves David Crowder and Chris Tomlin. Generally this guy is Baptist. David cringes every time he sees Shaved Head Guy, falling into a deep depression because he feels that he looks like every other Shaved Head Guy out there.

Next, there's Portly-But-Hip Youth Pastor. This fellow is, well, we'll say "cornfed," but without the cornfield. Generally this youth pastor enjoys cool, trendy shoes, cargo pants, Christian T-shirts that say edgy things, trucker hats, and watches with extremely wide bands. Facial hair in any form is acceptable and welcome. This guy is generally either Presbyterian or Lutheran. Third Day is a staple in the CD player in his Bronco.

Thirdly, there's X-TREME!!!!! youth pastor. He is non-denominational, and his church generally enjoys his X-TREME!!!!! personality. This guy is all fuel, says "stinkin'" a lot, and does wacky things. He is an outdoorsman, loves skydiving and bungee jumping, and never sleeps.

Lastly is Mr. Hardcore. He has many tattoos, has incredibly intense facial hair, and has giant holes in his ears that have been manipulated by extreme piercing and stretching. He may even have an eyebrow or a septum ring. This guy loves Tooth and Nail Records, takes his youth group to Cornerstone, and has a Hardcore pirate Christian radio station. He is mostly Charismatic or Willow Creek.

Every single guy here fits into one of these four categories. It's hilarious.

But it's been a good conference so far. Crowder rocks my socks. I won an iPod Nano. Tomorrow I am planning to go to the prayer labrynth at some point. I hope that I can shut up enough to let God speak to me in cool ways.

Mike Pilavachi spoke tonight. He's hilarious. Bible stories are always funnier when told in a British accent. But he said something profound: "It's messy in the nursery. It's neat and tidy in the graveyard. Let's choose to exist in the nursery."


The "D" Word

I want the body of an athlete, the mind of a poet, the soul of a pilgrim.

Instead, I have the body of a sloth, the mind of a dullard, and the soul of an amoeba.

I need to be more disciplined. I try, I really do. My new routine is supposed to be to rise at five o'clock in the morning, pray for half an hour, write my morning pages for half an hour, and then go running. It's a nice thought. When I do it, I enjoy it. I mostly want to sleep, though. It's very difficult to get my runner self, my writer self, and my disciple self to agree to getting out of bed all at once. It is amazing the bargaining I can do with them when I am in a semi-conscious state.

This was the conversation I had with myself this morning when my alarm sounded:

Runner Sarah: "Ugh. 5:00 already? Okay, just...hit the snooze. Just once."
Disciple Sarah: "But if you sleep for nine more minutes, that cuts into prayer time."
Runner Sarah: "It's just nine extra minutes. And anyway, I really don't know if I can run today. I mean, I am pretty tired. I was sick on Friday, and well, my body is still probably trying to recover. I probably should take it easy."
Writer Sarah: "Gah! Shut up! I'm trying to sleep! How can I be brilliant if my subconscious isn't allowed to process? Just chill out!"
Runner Sarah: "...and anyway, you haven't done laundry all weekend, so there's no telling where your running clothes are. You'll probably spend all your time looking for them. You really aren't going to have time to run today..."

So lucid, reasoning Sarah takes control, tosses off the covers, and puts both feet on the floor. That's the only thing that makes the other three shut up. That, and the promise of coffee.

So now I am up, and my coffee is in hand, and I am two-thirds of the way through my morning ritual. My inner selves are still whining, though they tend to taper off as I accomplish my tasks. Writer Sarah stops whining and is happy the moment I begin writing my Morning Pages. Runner Sarah will continue to whine throughout the run, until I finish and she says, "See? Now don't you feel great?" Even now, as I am writing, she is whining. Time to go run.

8:45 am

And so I forced Runner Sarah to put on her shoes and get out there. "But I'll get blisters," she protested, "and you know how much it hurts when I get blisters mid-run..." "Tie your shoes," I ordered.

Walking out the door, hand on the knob, she said, "It's going to be cold. I'm going to get cold!" I retorted, "Well, won't it be nice not to die of heat exhaustion for once?" I forced the headphones onto Runner Sarah's head, tightened up the arm band on the mp3 player (she complained about the music, of course), and pushed play. The first song was "Since You've Been Gone" (so okay, it's my nine-year-old's mp3 player) and Runner Sarah was off, fueled by the angst in the song. The run was very good.

I am not a disciplined person. I really just want to do whatever feels good at the moment. Sleeping feels good; running does not. Eating feels good; dieting does not. Wandering aimlessly feels good; praying does not. Watching TV feels good; writing does not. There are so many things in life that just don't sound fun when the time comes for me to have to do them, but I am learning that once I set my mind to it -- determine in my heart that I am going to participate -- I feel so great afterwards. The first two hours of my day are filled with such activities. I hate drudgery, and sometimes these activities seem like drudgery at first. But the reward is in the consistency. I have remained a spiritual infant for ten years because of inconsistency in my devotional life. I haven't written a thing worth mentioning because I've never committed myself to my gift and made the choice to write every day. I'm getting fatter by the month because I can't keep an exercise routine going.

I had a counselor tell me once that I needed to pick one area of my life and bring discipline to it. I melted into a pile. As an artist, I hate discipline. He told me that he goes running every day -- and he admitted to hating to run -- because he found that if he disciplined himself in one area, it seemed to bleed over into other areas of his life quite naturally. I am finding this to be true. One foot in front of the other; one pen stroke after the next; one prayer at a time. I may not ever become FloJo or Elizabeth Bishop or C.S. Lewis, but the reward is in the process, and in the knowledge that my Creator is pleased with my meager efforts.


Slo-Mo Home Depot


I quit my job...

....and it was good.

This job was great in many aspects: the money, the people, my coworkers (most of whom have become real friends to me), the books (oh, the books. I love books), the growth I experienced.

But Christmas almost killed me. I don't think I've ever been that miserable in a job -- wait, okay, yes, the dating service was worse. Waaaay worse. Rephrasing that: I haven't been that miserable in a job since the dating service job. I desperately wanted out. I begged and pleaded and bargained with God to get me out (ironic that I was begging God to get me out of a Christian bookstore!). He didn't get me out. I've managed to make it six more months, and I know why now: if I had quit when I wanted to, I wouldn't have had a certain "chance" encounter with someone, which would thus change the course of David's and my life (I'll expound more on that thought tonight. I am not at liberty to reveal certain details until later).

So because of said encounter, I now have a new job, which will begin on August 14. I am so excited. I will be doing a job that is more closely aligned with my gifts as well as the things I've been doing for years with LJG -- building websites, promotion and marketing, *writing*... God is good. I put in my notice at my current job yesterday. I can't believe I'm out of there in less than two weeks!

A good friend has always told me that God never takes us out of a situation until we have learned to be content there. I believe she is right. It took me a several months to give up and say, "Okay, God, wherever You want me..." when my flesh was screaming to walk out that door. But I finally got there, and was willing to stay even if I it meant I ended up being there years longer. That's when the blessed door of hope opened, and yesterday I gladly cartwheeled on through.

Last night we told our kids that we were leaving them because David has taken another job somewhere. It was such a hard thing to do, like telling your young son or daughter that you're sorry, but you just can't raise them anymore, and that they will have to go and live in a foster home in Portland, and they can't take their pet hamster, and you're sorry but this is just the way it has to be. What's so painful about it is that they really are *our* kids. We have spent the last two years pouring ourselves into them, and they have opened up like little flowers and have been so dear and trusting and accepting of us. To many we've been like second parents to them, and we'd adopt any one of them without reservation. We love these kids so very, very much.

This is obviously a part of being in ministry that we haven't had to learn to do yet, and I'm not sure it ever gets any easier. When God tells you to go and opens up all the right paths for your journey, you don't argue. But leaving behind such precious faces, full of hope and life and love, is a gut-wrenching struggle they can't prepare you for in even the best seminaries or training schools.

I know, beyond all doubt, that God is taking us to a new church, a new leg of the journey that we began two years ago. The circumstances surrounding this are too obviously God-ordained.

I was at work one day when a well-known San Antonio pastor, who recently had retired from one of the largest churches in the city, came in to buy a set of reference books. Asserting my managerial privileges, I gave him a discount since he was spending so much on these books. We began talking, and I mentioned that my husband was a youth pastor in Pipe Creek. He immediately brightened and said, "I've heard about your husband and the youth group there in Pipe Creek. I've heard great things about what he's doing there." He mentioned to me that had come out of retirement and was pastoring a church in Kerrville and was in need of a good youth pastor, wink, wink. I smiled and waved him off, saying, "Well, I'm sure God will lead you to the right guy." He thanked me for the discount and we parted ways.

But he kept coming in and asking me if David was ready to be his youth pastor yet, and each time, I'd play along and say, Oh sure! We'll be right over, and we'd chuckle, and he'd buy books and leave.

Then one day he came in with his business card, and handed it to me, and, with a serious look in his eye, said, "I'm here specifically to see you. Tell your husband to call me. I really do need a youth pastor." I gulped, and said, "Okay," knowing that this was different, and that this was probably right. Sometimes you just know when God is beginning to make things shift a little off your center of gravity.

I took David the card, and he immediately said, "This is so far-fetched. I don't want a new job. I don't want to leave my kids. I'm happy here in Pipe Creek." But we have also learned that with God you have to be open to any possibility, and so he agreed to pray about it.

And so we prayed and fasted and prayed some more. We talked with people around us who we trust to give us objective and wise counsel. They all heartily encouraged us to explore the possibility, and said that it sounded like the right thing for us.

Last Tuesday a formal offer was made, not only to David, but to me as well; David as youth pastor, me as media coordinator for the church and assistant to the pastor, who is a writer, and who wants me to assist him in his book-writing. And we have this fabulous opportunity to work under, and be mentored by, this incredible man of God who has 50 years of experience and is well-respected by people all over the world. We prayed and fasted some more. The answer came: it's time to go.

And so, last night, we dropped the bomb on our kids. We all cried. Hard. We hugged. We prayed. Some are hurt, some are just sad, some are angry. This isn't easy. I hate this. I know that God is going to take care of them, but half of me -- actually, most of me -- keeps screaming, "But what about all the fun we've had? What about the growing and discipling they still want and need?" They're so fragile and my heart is breaking, knowing that we're hurting them by leaving. Many of them have had histories of abandonment by parents and other important people, and I know how they feel, and I don't want to be another adult who has left them. But in the end, I know that God is sovereign, and that He knows what He's doing, and He has a plan for them as well. And we are not going to stop loving them just because we're moving churches. They will always be our kids. We will continue to be available to love them and watch them grow.

I believe that this is a good thing for all of us. David and I have a wonderful opportunity ahead of us, and I believe that our kids do as well. Barbara, my comanager at work, said that if we were to stay with our kids, we would be blocking the way for the next person who is supposed to come in and love them like we have, probably better than we ever could. I just have to trust that God is going to give them someone amazing. I know He will.


I am hoping I can sleep tonight; I've not had a good track record this week.

Tuesday night I was up all night. We have some major impending changes and Tuesday night was the night everything was solidified. I was at the point of drifting off to sleep many times, but was quickly jolted awake by my psychotic thoughts each time. I never did look at the clock, because I've learned not to torture myself with the "Omigosh, it's 4:48 and I'm should be sleeping!"

I didn't have insomnia until about five years ago. I think that's when my life as a lonely, isolated stay-at-home-mom began to change and I started to venture out into the world of people again. I began collecting friends and issues (and friends with issues) and other mental and emotional items like bits of yarn, and then I tried weaving them all together into a mismatched, wacky, frenetic quilt. I can make a pretty decent quilt, and match all the edges for the most part, but sometimes when I'm trying to sleep, I lay awake thinking about what a tangled mess I've actually made, and how I'll never be able to unravel the darn thing enough to actually make sense of it, and how everyone will laugh and laugh at my ugly, messy quilt. It tortures me -- not the whole thing, mind you, but the little, ugly, wiry ends that stick out and don't quite have a place to fit. When I'm least expecting it, I'll be jolted awake by a random, "What the heck was I thinking," or a, "I STINK at this," or, better (in my mom's voice), "Sarah, that's just stupid. You can't do anything right."

And once the self-flagellation starts, I am guaranteed to be up all night with variations on the theme. My quilt comes to life when I'm drowsing and devours me with its yarn-y teeth for six hours, and I get up at daylight bleary-eyed, headachey, and hungover.

I've tried everything the experts say to do: relaxation exercises, Valerian root, reading a book, watching TV, getting a drink, praying, journaling. None of them work. Actually, Tuesday night I took three Valerian roots, read, drank water, and watched TV all at the same time. I figured I'd condense four trips out of bed into one. It didn't work. I got up at 7:30 after finally falling asleep at 6:00, and my first word was, "Dangit."

So that was my Tuesday night.

Last night was better. I slept for most of the night, but David was "quilting" in his sleep last night, and he actually talks out loud to his quilt, so I was awakened several times to random speech and much thrashing around. I've learned to tuck earplugs under my pillow for such an occasion. I just wish they worked well enough to block out my thoughts when I need it. Or that we could coordinate our insomnia to fall on the same nights. Then we could have a virtual quilting bee.

Tonight will be better. I hope. With this looming threat of insomnia striking on any given night, I tend to approach bedtime with dread. I'll let you know how it works out.



I am not sure why it is innate in each one of us to idolize, or at our most mature state, to admire someone. Perhaps it is misplaced worship of our Creator: we were created to worship Him, and since we are fallen and have a difficult time worshipping Someone unseen, we turn our attention to those visible to us who portray to us the character of God we crave and admire.

When I was a child, I idolized Wonder Woman (actually, I still do, just in a more tongue-and-cheek fashion). I watched Lynda Carter every day. I pretended I was her in my room, spinning around till I was dizzy, hoping if I did it long enough that cool "pow" would happen and Id miraculously change into someone with superpowers and a cool lasso. My idol worship was immature and fanciful, yet there was something that attracted me to Wonder Woman her strength, her beauty, the fact that she always kicked the bad guys butts and had great comeback lines while doing so. She had it all, and I wanted that sort of confidence.

In Jr. High, Wonder Woman got relegated to the attic, and my idols were the girls I couldn't be: the girls who got to wear makeup in fifth grade, who had all the boyfriends, who were popular. I wanted to be them. They had it all confidence, poise, top position on the food chain, and everyone liked them. I wanted to be liked. Instead, I was the geek who got pinned down and fed baby food at parties. It was as if everyone around me got the joke but me.

When my dad died my thirteenth year, I didn't care about those girls anymore. I went inward, turned to God, found my confidence, and began to sing about it. And my idolization changed then, because I had learned to worship the only One who deserved to be worshiped. But I still had a few who I admired, mainly musicians who were doing what I felt I was called to do, and I modeled myself after them. They were the benchmark for me they represented the goal.

In college, after the typical disillusionment and honing and shaping and refining that typically happens when you are coming of age one thousand miles from home, I was flailing about wondering what the heck had happened to my dreams. The music I had always made wasn't doing it for me anymore; I knew there had to be something else. I was going through a lot of self-discovery, actually coming out of the roughest part of it all, and a friend of mine called one day to tell me about his recent jaunt on tour with Don Williams:

"Sarah, wow, you have to hear this amazing CD that I heard while I was on the road. It's an artist named Mary Black, and the CD is called 'Babes in the Wood,' and wow. It's incredible. The sound guy played it every night as the pre-show music. You have to come over and hear it!!!"

So one day while I was at my friends house, I gave Mary Black a listen. My world was instantly turned upside down. It was one of those CDs that comes at just the right time in your life, like you've been prepared for it your entire life, and it hits you right where you are. I was blown away. I "got" it. I was spellbound. It touched me to the core her voice, her delivery, the songs -- it was everything I'd ever wanted to be as a singer and a songwriter. It all came together in that moment, and the next day I went out and bought a guitar and started to write. I was re-inspired.

I had the opportunity to see Mary Black live a year or so later, and it was amazing. I felt like I had been to church. It was the most beautiful, stirring show I'd ever experienced. Yes! my spirit cried. I want to be her! I must do that. I have to. It's what I was made for, and now I know it!

So I began to fumble towards my dream, and in the process, got married, and began to share the gift with my husband. What a privilege. And our little hobby that began as baby steps, banging out songs on the back deck of our house in the middle of nowhere, grew into a CD, and then soon we started planning for a second CD.

We happened onto a producer who was the brother of the studio owner. He had the credentials, and when we talked on the phone, he mentioned Mary Black and a few other artists I loved. "This guy obviously gets it," I told David. "He actually knows who Mary Black is. He must be the right guy for the job!"

So we went ahead with our plans to record, and picked our songs for the album. We decided to record one of Mary's songs from that first CD that had changed my life as a nod to her for essentially mentoring me. We recorded the vocals for the song late one night after the rest of the band had gone home, and when I was finished with my take, I came into the control room to have a listen.

When the song finished, the producer sighed and said, "Wow, that song just blows me away. That whole Mary Black CD is one of my all-time favorites. In fact, 10 years ago, when I was running sound on the Don Williams tour, I used to play that CD as pre-show music."

I literally almost fell out of my chair. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My head began to spin.

I think I actually pointed at him and yelled, "YOU!" It was all I could say. I think I frightened him. "You?" I cried. "You were the sound guy that played the Mary Black CD on the Don Williams tour? That was freaking YOU?!"

I explained to him that because he played that CD on that tour, my friend got me hooked on Mary Black, which changed the course of my entire life. We sat in silence for several minutes soaking that in what are the odds that that very sound guy would just happen to end up producing our record? I couldn't have tracked down that sound guy if I tried, and here he was, sitting next to me, producing our record.

I knew in that moment that we were doing exactly what we were meant to be doing, recording the album that we were meant to record. It was such a beautiful moment of being able to see directly into Gods plan, to see that all this time, when I thought I had gotten so off track, He was guiding me.

A friend of mine from Wales recently went to a Mary Black concert in England and handed her our CD. Having met Mary a few times, I know her to be down-to-earth and interested in her fans, and so theres a decent chance that shell actually give it a listen. Besides, her guitar player played on the record, so there's some added interest there. It's a strange and amazingly cool thing to be able to give your hero the person who has been the single greatest influence on you as an artist your art. Its one of those privileges unique to musicians, I think, to be able to give as tangible evidence of someone's influence a piece of music that will now become part of their lives like their art became a part of yours. It's a cosmic giving-back, and it's such an amazing blessing to have the honor of being able to hand them your art and say, "Thank you. You are why I did this." I don't really know how to explain it, but it is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life. I am a huge believer in thanking one's mentors, giving credit where credit is due. Of course, ALL glory goes to the Creator, the author of all creativity, but there is something necessary in also "paying it backwards" to those He uses in our lives to spur us on.

So Mary has our CD, and I have it on good authority that she really likes the cover. She may hate the music, and use the CD as a coaster, and if so, that's okay. At least it's out there, the karmic "thank you" whispered to my hero. Mission accomplished.



I am merely showing up at the page tonight. I have no subject matter.

I am happy for Anne Lamott, who takes the mystery out of writing, who makes me realize that I am normal. I may be a freak, but I am normal as a writer. Every writer goes through this.

I’d love to grasp onto some beautiful idea and expound poetically, but I’m really tired. Maybe fatigue is good… it makes my inner censor go away because she’s too lazy and sleep-deprived to care.

But I’ve just sat here for the past two minutes in a daze, biting my nails, wasting precious writing time. Maybe I’ll spend the next hour writing about nothing. Or maybe at the very end of my work session (see how I called it “work,” as if I’m some fancy writer who actually does this for a living?) I’ll stumble onto something brilliant and go to bed terribly satisfied and feeling prolific and profound.

Probably not.

It would help if I had a proper desk. I’ve been dreaming about getting my writing office all set up for two weeks now, but somehow it never works out. The desk is at least in the room now. That’s a start.

Then I have to carefully place my most treasured books all around me on the shelves, which makes me feel profound and prolific and well read. Because, after all, profound and prolific writers are well read.

Then I really must get the laundry out of here. Right now it’s a good stopping place, being the room adjacent to the laundry room. Usually I dump it with the intention of folding it, and then the shiny bluish glow of my computer distracts me. My laundry pile is quite substantial today.

Someday I’ll have an organized office. Someday all my laundry will be done. Someday I’ll have all my books out of boxes, sitting prettily on my bookcases. And then I will write. I will be a brilliant and prolific writer and will write the great American novel, and everyone will love me. Someday.

I realized today that I am a visionary… a big-picture person. Not detail-oriented. I get all these big, fine ideas, and then get really excited, and then get bored trying to hammer out the details and give up. This was a revelation to me, blessedly dropped on my head as I was taking trash out to the dumpster at the bookstore. It’s my management style there: figure out what the place should look like, and then delegate everyone else to do it. That works well in a team setting, such as at the bookstore.

When you are a writer and don’t have eight brains to which you can delegate the piddly details of hammering out a book, it makes for a rough time. No wonder I never finish a project! I get sick of hoeing the same row for days at a time, trying to break up the fallow ground so that I can eventually get the dang thing to grow something (hopefully something good), and so I quit and move on to the next project or idea. That’s why I don’t write fiction. I’m trying to quit that mentality; trying even now as I sit here and write about not writing. Maybe someday I’ll recover enough that I will actually sit down and write something with a plot that tracks all the way through a book. Just a thought.

In the meantime, I’m just going to keep at it, sitting on the floor of my office with my keyboard in my lap, piles of clothing around me, thinking about what my books would look like along the walls, and hope that something good happens eventually. I think it’s worth it. At the very least, in the end, I’ll have a killer journal.



I know, I haven't been around here for awhile.

I have had the most hellacious of weeks the past few weeks. Work has been awful. It was so bad last week that I broke down and got a massage Monday night. Now I need another one. The stress has been terrible; I haven't ever been tempted to walk out of any job, ever. I am about there now... I won't follow through with that action, of course, but I think last week my "fight or flight" was set a little more to "flight."

But of course there is always comic relief in the midst of the crap. Monday morning I walked onto the sales floor from the back office to hear a youngish woman in tattered clothing pulling a black suitcase on wheels. She was literally yelling on her cell phone... and she was yelling every obscenity I've ever heard. She walked all over the store with her cell phone, having some sort of fight with whomever she was speaking, dropping "F-bombs" all over my Christian bookstore. Loudly. After about five minutes of this, an older gentleman from down the shopping center came in and said, "She was in my store doing the same thing. I've already called the police." She continued to yell and scream and finally walked behind a man at the counter who was standing there with a "what in the world is happening right now" look on his face. After the 56th F-word, he got fed up and turned around and took the cell phone out of her hand and hung it up. She went ballistic. I found out later that it was his phone -- she had borrowed it under the pretense that there was some kind of emergency. I told her she needed to leave the store, and she called me a f-ing Christian and how dare I throw her out and if I only knew what she was going through, etc. She walked out the door, and as soon as she got outside, she let out a bloodcurdling scream. I guess she must have gone into the Sprint store next door and used their phones, because an hour later the Sprint guys came in to buy drinks from us and told us about the crazy woman who was talking on all their demo phones and cussing out their customers. They escorted her out of their store, too.

What's amazingly creepy is that yesterday one of the Sprint people came in to buy a drink, and said that after she left the store last week, he checked the call logs on the phones she had been using. There were no calls made during that time. She wasn't talking to anyone.

This is our, like, 5th paranoid schizophrenic to frequent the store. Four days after baggage lady, another woman walked in and asked to talk to our "staff minister." She stayed in the store till close, and then walked out talking to herself.

Did someone leave the doors open at the funny farm?

In other news, I PASSED MY TEACHING EXAM!!!!!! I can be a teacher! Yaaay!

In other bad news, we are supposed to be moving tomorrow, and now we're not. I should be at home packing up my house, and I'm not. I should be using my brand-new dishwasher in my brand-new kitchen tomorrow night, but I'm not. Why, you ask? Because KBHome SUCKS.

We've spent the past, oh, nine months planning to move into our new home. We've gone over to the site every day to check the progress. Everything was great until yesterday, when our landlords went to close on the house. They showed up ready to sign papers and get the keys, and KB told them, "Oh, well, see, here's the thing. The Boerne building inspector won't allow the house to pass inspection because the house was built in the wrong place on the lot." Apparently there is supposed to be five feet between houses in the neighborhood, and some bonehead didn't use a measuring tape when they laid the foundation for our house, so there is only three feet between houses. How stupid do you have to be? Hello! So because of KB's mistake, we can't move in. Maybe not for another month, maybe not ever. If Boerne decides to play hardball, they may actually have to tear down the house and rebuild it in the proper place, two feet over.

Can you believe it? Yeah. Oh well. If it's not God's will for us to be in that house, I have to believe that there's something better for us out there, and I'll surrender to that.

But I really was looking forward to having space, and a dishwasher, and a garage, and closets, and a fenced-in backyard.

That's the news from Lake Woebegone. I'm going to go home and crash.


Deal or no deal

I can't believe it's April. I feel like these days my life is spent running from one appointment to the next, and I am constantly breathless and exhausted. I'm spinning so many plates right now, trying to keep them all going, and while I'm okay with the frenetic pace of it all, I keep thinking that a slowing-down is just around the corner. Problem is, that never seems to be the case.

We are set to move into our new house in a couple of weeks, and I haven't even thought of packing. Well, actually, I have thought about packing, but not enough to actually follow through with the action of doing so. That's pretty much the story of my life: I think about doing a lot of things (writing a letter to Grandma, exercising my increasingly flabby body, not missing friends' birthdays, writing, cleaning, sleeping) but when it comes down to putting action behind thought, I fail miserably. If I just didn't have to sleep; well, that would be fabulous.

I am in the process of working on my teacher certification. I took my big, scary ExCET exam last Saturday, and will get the results May 5. I haven't taken a test in 12 years, and this one was a doozy. The 90 multiple choice questions were hellish; they don't test you on your knowledge of English, grammar, literature, etc.; they want to know about your teaching methods. However, if you have never taught in public school before, you wouldn't know about said teaching methods, because the answers they are looking for are not common sense, real-world answers, but instead these lofty, idealistic, P.C., "let's-include-everyone-so-that-none-feels-out" answers. God was smiling on me that day, though: half of my score is an essay I had to write comparing and contrasting two texts of the state's choice. The brilliant part of it all was that the two texts selected for me that day were "To Kill a Mockingbird," which I've read and studied a thousand times, and "House of Mirth," a Victorian text, which was my specialized area of study in college. No problem. We'll see exactly how brilliant I am on May 5... I very well might have failed the whole dang thing. My brain was literally mush when I walked out of there 5 hours later.

So if I pass the beast, I will be on the road to teaching high school English. That will give me an opportunity to do something I love, invest in some lives, and have summers and holidays free and on the same schedule as my family.

Or, God could pull the rug out from under the whole thing, and that would be okay, too. I'm all about going with what He wants for me, and I'm trying very hard to listen to what He has to say about all of this. I've made so many choices that I've ended up really regretting because I impulsively chose to do what was right in my own eyes rather than listening for His cues, and I really want to be done wasting time with that.

In other news, I think I have truly found musical nirvana. David took me to our new HearMusic store last night, where you can listen to over a million songs at one of the many listening stations, compile all of your favorites, and burn a CD right there in the store. It's fabulous. David made a compilation of his essential metalhead music, and I found many CDs that I wanted, but ended up with Frances Black's "How High the Moon." I haven't been able to find her music around here, and they actually had it in their catalog. I was pleased, to say the least. It's a beautiful CD. What I found ironic, though, was that HearMusic, which boasts a fairly comprehensive catalog, didn't include any of Frances' sister's (Mary) CDs. Go figure.

It was a great experience, though... you can listen to full CDs, not 30-second snippets, and we listened for about 2 hours. I left full of music and inspiration (and excitement over my newly-burned treasure), but was also mad at myself for not discovering some true gems earlier than last night. I listened to Peter Gabriel's latest CD, and was blown away. I delved into Neko Case's latest and was drooling. I browsed through Joseph Arthur's first CD and fell in love all over again. I have a very long list of CDs that I must possess, and it feels good to be hungry for music again.

HearMusic is going to be very, very dangerous for me.

Well, I have probably wasted enough of my day off sitting here on the computer, so I must fly. Time to do more thinking about packing and such.



It is cold today, and quiet; the boys are taking a nap, having had a late night last night. I, unable to nap, am enjoying the stillness and a cup of Earl Grey, which smells like England.

I wonder why God built me with such an intense desire to travel when I so rarely am able to do so? I have a friend who would be content to stay home, cocooned in her house in Pipe Creek forever. For her, anything north of the Red River is considered "yankee," and anyone who lives in "yankee territory" is a freak of nature. We have joked often about her having a prejudice for non-Texans, and she has no desire to visit anyplace that isn't small-town Texas. Every so often I ask her, "But don't you want to see Europe? Australia? Ecuador? Oklahoma?" "No thanks," she says. It freaks me out. I am sure she is not well emotionally. She probably needs hypnotherapy. She must have some blocked childhood alien abduction issues or something. She would rather just stay home. The tragedy of it all to me is that she has the financial means and the opportunity to see the world many times over, literally. It simply does not interest her. I cannot fathom such an insular existence. To each his own, right?

I have an intense need to go, to see new things, to breathe in new places and people and flavors and sounds. I crave the British Isles. I must see Australia before I die. I need to go to Belize just once. And oh, how I miss Wyoming! At times I ache so badly for the mountains that I feel that my heart will burst. Last year, when we went to Colorado, I cried at first sight of the Sangre de Christo range. It had been ten years since I had seen real mountains. I don't know how I made it so long without them.

All it takes is a tiny thing, like the smell of Earl Grey tea, to set me off. As I sit at my desk on this cold, damp, cloudy day sipping my tea, I am pining away for Oxford. When I was in college, I took a two-week course over Christmas break with some classmates and my favorite Lit professor, Dr. Smith. On one of our free days, Dr. Smith took some of us on a day trip to Oxford. Dr. Smith and three of us broke off from the group to go exploring. It was Sunday and the town was mostly closed, but we walked around Magdalen College, wandering through courtyards and peeking in windows and talking about C.S. Lewis, in awe that we were walking the very grounds he walked, amazed at the history of it all. Through one of the courtyards, we found a hidden gate, rusty and ancient and wise, and behind it a walking path along the perfectly emerald-green river. It was magical and secret, and utterly peaceful. I remember being impressed with how green the grass was for December, and we watched the mallards idle by in the river and Dr. Smith recited Shelley and Wordsworth and we sighed at the beauty of it all. It was marvelous. I was so full of England and poetry and history and life that it was almost too much. We remained there as long as we could, knowing that this was one of those "moments," and we soaked it in.

Around 3:30, we decided to head back to the city centre for tea. It was getting dark and we had an hour or so before we had to catch the train, so we ducked into a little cafe and ordered our cream tea. It was close to closing time, so the four of us were the only people in the place. We doctored up our tea, laughed at Dr. Smith, who always put exactly two drops of half-and-half in her tea, and thoroughly enjoyed our scones with clotted cream and jam. We were still high from our walk, and as we talked about how amazing and wonderful the day had been, the Eagles came on the radio. We sang "Take It Easy" over scones and tea, laughed at the fact that our Victorian Lit professor who regularly wore Laura Ashley knew every word to an Eagles song, and we were having this classic rock "moment" together in Oxford. It was surreal and yet somehow fitting, and the four of us savored it, knowing that our perfect day was quickly coming to an end.

I grew and learned so much about the world those two weeks in England, developing a fondness for other cultures, an appreciation for history, and a passion for knowledge (not to mention a voracious appetite for books). I discovered how to navigate a huge, foreign city without getting lost, and how not to be the "stupid American." Invaluable life lessons came packaged neatly in a two-week course. My eyes were opened a little more to the world and my life changed dramatically after that.

(Incidentally, it was also on that trip that a painting hanging quietly in the National Gallery rocked my world and became inspiration for a huge part of my life as a musician. That story will be told another time.)

This year I don't have big fine travel plans (except for camp in Colorado with 30 teenagers, but that's more like work than play), and it makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic. I haven't decided yet if this need to always explore is a character flaw or a gift; perhaps a little of both. But I am learning that the landlocked, provincial life in which I currently find myself is okay, it is just a season, and it's not forever. I am learning to be content with where God has me (which is no small task for the Teacher or the student), and in the midst of this, learning to appreciate the little things: that my 40-hour-a-week job involves being surrounded by books (not to mention comic relief due to the occasional freakishness of the public); that despite the craziness of my schedule, the gigs are coming in again and we are once again playing music; that I have rediscovered writing, though I've had to fight for time to do it, but I've never been more inspired.

So when that incredible ache comes over me on a day like today, and I feel that I simply must hop on a plane or I shall surely die, I allow myself to pine a little, and then I whisper in my spirit, "...but not my will, but Yours...." I am learning the art of surrender. I am thankful for the lesson. And I hope "the urge for going" stays prominent in my heart as a reminder to me of where I've been, of where I am, and of what's in store.


Just words

Valentines Day has always been the stalest of holidays for me. I've never really liked it much. Maybe it's all the pink. I've never been a pink person; I've rather always been more of a brown person or an olive drab person or, perhaps, a burnt umber person, but pink makes me feel funny. Uncomfortable. Itchy. Nauseous. I associate it with candy conversation hearts, which I never liked, except for the yellow ones, but ate anyway and went home from school feeling queasy and lonely. I never had boyfriends, and thus never got "good" valentines like all the popular girls like Nikki Burke and Michelle Palmer did: teddy bears and roses and chocolates and all sorts of other lavish items from their football boyfriends. The conversation hearts were never really special, always very standard -- everyone gave and got conversation hearts stuffed inside the little tiny envelopes that held the generic valentines. We only ate them because they were candy and Valentine's Day was the only day past Christmas you could have candy in school. But you knew they were given in an almost obligatory way, given to you by random people who really weren't even your friends, and that added to the pointlessness of it all.

And so the candy hearts were eaten in the same obligatory manner in which they were given, and I would go home with my queasy stomach and dump out all my generic valentines on my bed and read them all.

"To: Sarah
From: Diana"

"To: Sarah
From: Amy"

"To: Shara
From: Chad"

"To: Sahara
From: Jason W."
(the boys always spelled my name wrong)

I had about fifty-seven valentines stuffed in my little bag, none of them expressing any sentiment at all, and I only actually knew about four of the people that gave them to me. And only two of those people were in my clique, but I knew they didn't really like me much. After aimlessly shuffling through the little cards, I would stuff them in a drawer in my desk in my room and forget about them -- I would feel guilty if I threw them away.

When I got to college, I decided that I wouldn't be a victim of Valentine's Day, that I would overcome the staleness with rebellion. I went to a small Southern Baptist school where there was a fair share of girls who wore bows in their hair and had boyfriends that they were going to marry and have a thousand kids with, and the bowheads spent Valentine's Day carrying gigantic balloon bouquets with teddy bears in them from class to class and squealing to their friends about how he must be "The One," and I just couldn't take it. Therefore, "Black Day" was instituted: my friends and I made it tradition to wear all black on Valentine's Day.

My second year in Nashville, Valentine's Day struck back. I had driven out to my friends' Lang and Renee's house for the evening, and on the way back home, it started to snow. It was about 11:30 pm, and as I was coming off the freeway in the worst part of Nashville (read: racial tension and reverse discrimination towards white people like me), my Chevy Celebrity decided to break down. It was freezing. I was dressed up in my black with a thin black overcoat on, and had to walk to the nearest gas station from the freeway. Within seconds of the commencement of my journey, a loud, dented, creepy pickup truck stopped alongside me, and the passenger window rolled down to reveal two men of African-American descent, reeking of booze and Pall Malls, gold teeth glinting in the half-light. The driver, who looked like Flava Flav on crack, said, "Awwww, you need a ride? Hop in, we'll carry you to the gas station!" I muttered, "Umm, nothanksthatsokayI'llbefine" and kept walking. But Flav insisted: "C'mon, it's cool! We're cool! You can't walk all by yourself!" and so I reluctantly agreed to hop into the bed of the truck, reasoning that it was only 3 blocks and I could always jump if things got scary. They "carried" me to the gas station safe and sound and drove off. The attendant at the gas station, a 45-year-old video gamer who probably still lived with his mom, refused to let me in to use the phone (it was after midnight now and the doors were locked, leaving me to communicate my plight through the little mechanical drawer under the window), citing safety concerns (my black poet's shirt must have appeared threatening). I was then forced to walk another four blocks in the snow to another gas station, this time wishing Flav and his gold-toothed friend would come back and fetch me. I finally reached the gas station and called two guy friends back at school for help, and they came and pushed my car all the way back to Belmont in the snow.

In spite of my determination to stay away from the male species that night, I thanked God for Flav, Gold-tooth, and my two friends who ended up becoming my Valentine's dates that night.

At least they didn't give me any conversation hearts.

Even now, as a married woman, having found the love of my life and soulmate, Valentines falls flat. David feels the same way I do, and he's a romantic (far beyond me, in fact). It's the empty sense of mindless obligation that comes with the day that we both despise: because it's Valentine's day, we all have to make reservations, have a "romantic" dinner at an overcrowded restaurant, buy flowers, give a goofy card, etc. It's all so unoriginal. It's a Hallmark holiday. It's stale. So we usually end up playing somewhere (because the cello is so romantic, apparently, and in high demand on such a day), enjoying a nice meal after we've worked, and choose another night that isn't so programmed to go out and enjoy each other. This year is no exception. We are playing at our favorite restaurant in Fredericksburg, so we'll be working. We even decided we wouldn't do any gift-giving because we're trying to save for furniture for our new house. We are merely observers today, which is always fun and interesting.

Maybe I'll wear black for old-times' sake.


What the....?


Fiery Darts

This has certainly been my week for "fiery darts."

First the ugly friend blowup (now resolved, thank God, *sigh*, all better now).

Then yesterday I had a certifiable psycho-woman call me to complain about how one of my employees treated her on Saturday (my employee didn't mistreat her; the woman literally came running into the store screaming that someone needed to call the police because a car was being broken into, yet there was not a soul in the parking lot at the time; it all went downhill from there because she is nuts, as you will see), and after ranting and raving at me on the phone, I calmly said, "Ma'am..." and she screamed, "I can't talk to you with you screaming in my ear like this!" I said (even more calmly and much quieter), "Ma'am, I'm not screaming at you." She said, "YES YOU ARE! YOU HAVE SCREAMED AT ME FOR THE LAST TIME!!!" and I said, "Ma'am, I don't think I've raised my voice at all." She screamed, "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK, IT MATTERS WHAT I THINK BECAUSE I'M THE CUSTOMER!" Wow. It was awesome. She even threatened to call the owner to complain about my "screaming"... after which I had to repeat the Waco store number to her 7 times because she kept interrupting me to yell that she couldn't understand me and that I was breaking up and why was I giving her so many numbers? I finally had to repeat the phone number like this:

"Ma'am, please write down the numbers as I tell you and don't interrupt me. Ready? OK.











I paused for about 3 whole seconds between each number just to make sure she got it. She must have, because she hung up when I said, "5." She proceeded to call the main store and ask for the owner, who wasn't there, so she was passed of to his "assistant." His "assistant" called me 10 minutes later to say, "Wow, what a psycho." Anyway, yeah, that was fun. Can we do it again?

And then yesterday David and I had another situation upon which I won't elaborate because it's so ridiculous, but it was yet another case of someone not being mature (or loving, or grace-centered) enough to come to us with the problem, but instead choosing to attack us in an underhanded way.

I've been dealing with conflict all week (!) but I should probably get used to it... it goes with the job. Being in leadership makes me the prime target for any and all attacks, valid or baseless (most are actually baseless, I'm finding), and I'm learning how to hang in there with it and not let it defeat or demoralize me. I have always been weak in that area; I grew up with a lot of criticism, where nothing I did was ever good enough, and I tend to avoid conflict and tend to be more of a people-pleaser because of that. I think the biggest issue I have in dealing with conflict and criticism is not being given enough credit, not being given the benefit of the doubt. So many issues in friendship, in the church, in life, could be avoided altogether if people would just learn to approach each other in love instead of jumping to conclusions. I know this sounds so obvious and easy, but apparently it's a lost art. Three times in the past week I've been attacked by people who have refused to give me the benefit of the doubt, refused to come to me and give me a little credit, refused to take the time to consider things from another perspective. It's just really getting on my nerves, and I'm just venting here because I'm among friends. And I am learning what James meant when he said, "count it all joy...knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." I am grateful for the lesson and for the thicker skin I'm developing... and in the meantime, I'm trying very hard to to get ghetto on people!


The Art of Losing (or The Anatomy of a Breakup)

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

-- Elizabeth Bishop

I think I have mastered the art of losing friends. It seems to be a theme in my life. Sometimes it is by wrongdoing on my part, sometimes it is just time to part ways, then there are those (rare) instances where the breakup hits out of nowhere, sudden and violent, blindsiding me and leaving me trembling in shock and sheer lack of comprehension. Such is the carnage I have experienced this week.

I have a friendship of nearly five years that has been, well, unique. It has been the most demanding friendship I've ever experienced, due to issues upon which I won't elaborate, but the bottom line is that over the past five years I have poured much of myself into my friend -- we're talking blood, sweat, tears, prayer, fasting, sleepless nights, countless hours of counseling her, listening, etc. Used to be that we were inseparable, but our time has been scarce since I've been working full time. As far as I knew, however, everything was fine and dandy.

Last week, however, what started out as (what I thought) a simple misunderstanding turned into a battle of catastrophic proportions. And I'm still scratching my head, incredulous, thinking, "What the heck...?" I literally had no idea there was a problem. I'm still not sure what happened. All I know is that on Sunday, everything was great, and by Tuesday I was the most hated individual on the planet.

After regaining my senses after the initial shock, I realized that my friend had just shown me, in one 3-minute phone call, her true feelings about me and about our friendship. Knowing that I have been stressed to the max, she created a situation for me that not only has now added to my stress, but she has also decided to go out of her way to hurt me deeply in the process. I have always suspected, and others have told me for years, that this friendship was rather one-sided and that I was doing most of the work. It was unhealthy, but my fear of losing the friendship trumped my desire for sanity, so I kept spinning my wheels trying to make it work. On Tuesday, I realized that I had been given the truth in neon lights that I couldn't ignore, and so I made the decision to walk away, cut my losses, learn from it, and move on.

And so now I am left pulling out the shrapnel and readjusting my focus. I've done this before, so it's not quite as horrific as it was the first time, but it is so very much like breaking up with a significant other. I live in a small town. We have the same friends. It's only a matter of time before I run into her at Walmart or HEB. It's only a matter of time before our mutual friends start asking me for my side of the story (and for once, I don't feel the need to give it. I don't need to be justified. I know in my heart and before God that I have done absolutely nothing wrong, which is why this situation is so absurd). It's only a matter of time before casual acquaintances ask me how she's doing. These things are always awkward. They are never easy. I have had that fluttery knot in my stomach and sweaty palms for a week now because I hate conflict and because it's just weird. I find gifts that she's given me over the years and want to smash them to pieces because they seem to mock me now. I find myself muttering "should-have-said-phrases" like George Costanza: "Oh yeah? Well, the jerk store called..." I keep finding myself forgetting that she is gone from my life, and I'll think, "Oh, I need to tell her about that thing I saw today...." and then I realize that I can't. And when do I take her off of my speed dial? When do I erase the text messages? It happened so suddenly -- one minute we were friends and the next we were enemies -- but those old friendship habits and patterns don't immediately die when the friendship does.

I'm okay with it, though, really. Maybe I'm still in shock and I'll shed some tears once reality hits. I don't mean to sound callous. I just think that it was time to move on, time to get healthy, and God allowed this to happen to get me off my butt and get on with it. I feel free and really have peace about it. I wish things could have ended a little more gracefully, but how do you end a friendship gracefully? ("You know, everything seems great between us, and I've had a blast being your friend for five years, but I'm really feeling like it's time to stop being friends now. Thanks for all you've done. I really appreciate it.") Maybe we'll talk at some point and there will be some closure, but I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to having more time to spend on my husband, my other friends, and my writing. Life is good.


A Picture Share!

We decorated christmas cookies, and I am so *over* Christmas! What? Aliens can celebrate christmas too...

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