Writing

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This week I am participating in National Picture Book Writing Week. The challenge is to write a picture book manuscript rough draft each day for seven days. Each day! For seven days! So far, I’m two manuscripts in. The first one is…a rough draft. When I say rough, I mean Al-Can Highway rough. If you’ve never traveled on the Al-Can, allow me to clue you in. When I say it’s rough, I mean jarring-marring-clangy-bangy-hold-on-to-your-hat-and-pray-a-rock-doesn’t-bounce-up-and-break-your-rear-window-or-your-headlights rough (yep, that happened to us. We even lost our “I survived the Alaskan Highway” bumper sticker in the melee).

I digress.

My first manuscript is rough. It’s quite possible it has no potential whatsoever as child entertainment and enlightenment. But I wrote it, and that’s all that matters in this context…and in so many others.

My second manuscript is actually pretty fine. I’m proud of it. Excited about it. I e-mailed it to my daughter for feedback.

When I started writing yesterday, I didn’t know that I would end up with an extremely rough draft. When I started writing today, I didn’t know I would end up with a fairly spiffy final product. That’s the thing with art; and really, with life. All we can do is bring our best effort to the table. Sometimes the fairy dust gets sprinkled in and we stand back amazed. Sometimes, we end up with a wilted, scraggly, anemic attempt. Sometimes we fail SPECTACULARLY. Been there, done that.

For a perfectionist, for a people-pleaser, the fear can be debilitating. If everything I do must be perfect, then I’m going to be disabled by the fear of failure. How fun is it to live life like that?

When my children were small, we often had to encourage them to attempt new things. Walking, running, playing sports, learning to read, learning to play a musical instrument; these things seemed impossibly challenging at one time. The more they practiced, the easier the skills became, until they were effortless. No one expects perfection of little children learning new skills; we are silly and a bit egotistical if we expect continual perfection of ourselves, especially when learning new or difficult tasks.

I’ve been pushing myself to do hard things lately: messy things, creative things. I’ve been dabbling in art: I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it, so I’ve given myself permission to dabble away, to paint, draw, color, take pictures. I’m trying to write more.

Is there something you dream of doing or being? Stop being afraid. Perfection is your enemy; fear is not your friend. Go dream big dreams and live the life you’re too timid to attempt. What are you waiting for?

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings While Waiting for Test Results

 

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I’m wondering if my life is getting ready to change forever.

The past eight months of my life have been a quagmire of illness, pain, doctors’ appointments, steroids, antibiotics, breathing treatments, inhalers, pain relievers, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, physical therapy, a surgery, and medically-necessitated rest. FATIGUE. EXHAUSTION. My life has felt so surreal it’s as if I’ve wandered into a medical version of Dr. Seussland.

At my most recent visit to my asthma specialist, I finally voiced the thought that had begun to haunt my nights: “Could I have an auto-immune disorder? Low vitamin D? COPD? Something doesn’t seem right here.” Instead of looking at me like I’m a crazed, middle-aged, ball of anxiety, he responded, “I don’t think you have COPD”. From the look on his face and his vocal inflection, I immediately knew: he already has a suspect disease lined up. The blood test orders were sent.

I’m a reasonably intelligent human being: well-read, fairly well educated. I know how to Google. I’ve watched three seasons of House. I listened to my doctor’s diagnostic questions (such an odd, seemingly unrelated lot of queries); I googled the blood tests. I know what we’re looking for. My blood was drawn on Wednesday afternoon and I’m impatiently waiting for all the results to come in.

I’m wondering if my life is getting ready to change forever.

Being the anxious, fretful, worry expert that I am, I started googling things like treatment and complications and life expectancy. What if? What if? What if?

The truth is this: no matter what my blood tests show, I have no guarantee that I’ll be healthy tomorrow. That’s not how life works. So I can fret and fume and waste my moments in fear of ‘what if’, or I can decide to make the most of right now. As I pondered how I will respond if I get news I don’t want, it occurred to me:

Shouldn’t I respond exactly the same, whether I get good news or bad?

As a Christian, I do believe that everything has a purpose, that I have an opportunity to glorify God and to grow through my trials. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Everything is filtered through the hands of a loving God.”

So, while I wait, I’ve thought of some guidelines I wish to live by, no matter what my health status.

Kim’s Life Resolutions

1. Love more.

2. Give more.

3. Hug more.

4. Pray more.

5. Encourage others more. Say all the kind words.

6. Laugh more.

7. Sing, play, listen to more music.

8. Create, admire, enjoy more art.

9. Take more walks and kayak rides.

10. Talk and play more; watch less tv

11. Read more books I love. Quickly discard the ones I dislike. Reading is supposed to be fun; I don’t have to like what others like.

12. Wear more brightly colored clothes and jewelry. I don’t need to wait till I’m thin; it’s okay to dress how I want even though I’ll never be model material.

13. Approach each day with awe and wonder and joy and thankfulness. Share those traits with those around me.

14. Live, live, live every moment, because every moment is a blessing.

I have no clue what tomorrow holds. My health is certainly uncertain. My life is fragile, my days are numbered, I have no guarantees.

Just like you.

I’m wondering if my life is getting ready to change forever.

I think maybe it should.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Write

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I’ve always loved to write. I remember writing books as a young elementary school student, and pursued my interest throughout school. Even when family life and motherhood became the focus of my world, I continued to write letters and journals and found it satisfying and rewarding. However, in the back of my mind, I always believed that I would someday write a great book, and I kept working to mature and grow ripe and profound enough to spring a deep, complex work full of meaning and allegory onto the waiting world. Oh visions of granduer, thy name is Kim!

For several years I’ve dreamed of beginning a blog, and fantasized about the joy and opportunity for expression this would bring. However, there were several self-imposed obstacles standing in my way: perfectionism, being a people-pleaser, and fear of conflict. Has anyone else noticed how MEAN people can be out there in the world? I knew I could never express myself perfectly; I knew I would say things that would differ from others’ outlooks; I knew someone might say something hurtful. So, I let fear hold me back.

Fear of others’ opinions, and fear of failure. Those seem like huge, ugly, and–honestly–ridiculous roadblocks. So, I girded up my loins and decided to brave the fray. Of course, being a perfectionistic over-achiever, I decided that my goal would be to make a Big Popular Successful Lucrative Blog (BPSLB). This BPSLB would bring me fame, acclaim, and wealth. I read books and even purchased an online course to teach me how to monetize my blog, yada yada yada.

And I found writing suddenly turned from joy and anticipation to drudgery and dread.

Two events conspired to change my view. The first was the book Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I plan to reread and review here on a later date. The second event was a serendipitous encounter with a poster at a Choctaw Nation informational center in a newly-opened travel center we just “happened” across during a little road trip. After thinking our family had some Cherokee lineage for many years, I recently discovered that we are instead part Choctaw, so this little mini-museum was of special interest to me. When I saw the poster pictured above declaring the importance of Storytelling in keeping values alive for future generations and expressing a unique point of view, I was drawn in. I read this and re-read it, and I realized: this is who I am. I’m a storyteller. I have stories to tell and I want to tell them because I love them and think it’s important.

So, this is why I write. I’m not writing for fame or acclaim or riches. I’m writing because I’m a storyteller, and telling stories brings me joy.

I’m writing because writing makes me happy. If you want to hear my stories and share along, you are welcome.

A Hobbit A Wardrobe and a Great War, by Joseph Loconte

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I recently completed this thought-provoking book by Joseph Loconte. A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War was a moving exploration of how battling in World War I helped to form the faith, worldview and writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. With its broad overview of the War, many excerpts from letters and diaries of actual soldiers and an intermingling of quotes from the works of Tolkien and Lewis, I found a fascinating and moving account of two philosophical, intellectual men and their struggle to make sense of a world gone mad. I was particularly moved by mention of Tolkien writing battle accounts while in the thick of the action, and how those accounts later gave the sense of darkness and authenticity to the emotionally-stirring and heart-wrenching heaviness and seeming hopelessness to the war scenes in The Lord of the Rings.

“What are the basic elements of this vision? As soldiers in the Great War, Tolkien and Lewis endured a human cataclysm that laid a foundation for their mythic imagination. It thrust upon them as young men the experience of combat, suffering, and death that would remain with every war veteran of their generation.” Joseph Loconte, page 144.

“We shouldn’t be here at all [said Sam], if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo; adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually–their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.” Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

“Here is a truth that Tolkien must have learned during the Great War, an “adventure” he did not seek out, but one that came to him, unwanted. They had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. This freedom to either fulfill or evade the Calling on one’s life is central to Tolkien’s work–and to his understanding of the human condition.” Loconte, page153

I found this gem of a book to be a sobering and fascinating study into how great adversity can forge or break a character, and of how valiantly people often battle to find light in darkness. I recommend this book to those who have an interest in faith, history, and literature.

Chocolate Nirvana

Several years ago I was given the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook. Despite the fact that I’ve studied it religiously and drooled over the photographs, I’d never yet made any of the recipes. A couple years ago I went out and purchased individual ramekins specifically to make the Individual Soft Center Cakes. I’m not sure why I’ve been dragging my feet so long, but I finally decided to give it a go tonight.

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It was fun to make. I usually opt to melt my chocolate in the microwave, but I decided to strictly follow the instructions, so I melted the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. For some reason, I found this process soothing and mesmerizing. What can I say? I’m infatuated with chocolate.

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Taste-wise, this was a standout success, guaranteed to make any chocoholic happy. All the people in my house approved and requested that I make it again. My only complaint is with the name: Individual Soft Center Cakes. Hmm. No pizzazz. I hereby dub thee Chocolate Nirvana. You’re welcome.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I direct your attention to my finished product. Now, if you look at the finished product in the recipe link, you’ll see that mine did not turn out nearly as attractive. In the future, I think I would leave it in its little ramekin and serve the ramekin on a dessert plate with the ice cream on the side, because it really did totally lose its shape.

We still ate it happily.

http://www.ghirardelli.com/recipes/individual-soft-center-cakes/

One Whole Chicken, Three Meals

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I haven’t done a big menu plan/stock up grocery trip for…a while. My goal was to try to use up things from the freezer/pantry/fridge and not be wasteful. I gathered up some ingredients and got busy.

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Lemon Garlic Rosemary Crock Pot Chicken

Whole chicken
2 heads garlic, halved
Onion, rough chopped
2 small lemons, halved
2 T olive oil
Sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
Old Bay Blackened Seasoning
Bag of baby carrots

I had a bag of organic baby carrots that needed to be used, so I tossed those in the bottom of the crock pot. I rinsed my whole chicken and patted dry. Into the cavity I placed 2 whole garlic cloves, sliced in half, and a chopped onion. I had 2 scrawny-looking lemons, which I halved. I squeezed the juice onto the chicken, then placed lemon halves into chicken and the chicken into crock pot. Olive oil was rubbed onto chicken, then it was liberally sprinkled with salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. I tucked a sprig of rosemary from our herb garden under the chicken skin, and placed lid on crock pot. This was refrigerated overnight, then cooled on low all day while I worked. It was delicious! The lemony garlicky rosemary aroma and flavor was delectable.

Leftover Chicken Soup
Adapted from Pillsbury Kitchen Family Cookbook

1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t poultry seasoning
Bones from chicken
3 t chicken bouillon
1 bay leaf
6 c water
3/4 c orzo
4 med carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 peppers, chopped  (I used red)
2 medium onions, chopped

In large pot, combine first 6 ingredients. Simmer, covered, 1 1/2 hours. Remove bones; cut off meat and return meat to broth. Add remaining ingredients to broth. Simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

This was excellent; the best version of chicken soup I’ve ever made. The lemon flavor from chicken delicately flavored the soup.

Chicken Salad

Leftover chicken, well chopped
1 c rough-chopped pecans
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 cup grapes, halved
Mayo, enough to hold together
Salt and pepper to taste

I used up what I had without a store run, enjoyed three delicious meals for 3 adult appetites with lunch leftovers. Win win!
Enjoy!

“She Loves Me!”

I’m entering my third year as Preschool Assistant at Crossings. Prior to this, I taught at Crossings Mothers Day Out Program. My little friends there were freshly-turned two year olds when they came to me. This year, four of those children from my Mothers Day Out class are enrolled in our 4-5 year old preschool. One of those little ones will be in our class, which I’ve been looking forward to all summer.

The other day, I was standing near this little guy’s 3-4 year old preschool teachers from last year when he and his mom walked into the room. When we saw him, we all began jostling to give him a hug. My little friend pointed at me and said to his mom, “She loves me!”

I can’t stop thinking about this.

From the time I was in third grade, there were 4 things I knew I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a writer. I adored my third grade teacher. As I watched her, being a teacher seemed so glamorous, so important, so influential and memorable. Yes, I wanted to do something valuable and meaningful with my life; I also wanted to be adored, appreciated, and loved. As I grew, I decided I wanted to teach either third grade or High School English/Literature. It never occured to me to want to teach preschool. I wanted to be REMEMBERED. The fact is this: preschoolers are unlikely to remember their teacher years down the road. I don’t think my little friend from Mothers Day Out even remembers my name. None of my preschool students will ever thank me in their graduation speech or dedicate their first book to me.

It’s an ugly truth: I want people to praise my name at the gates. I want people to rise up and call me blessed. I want to do good, but I also want to be recognized for doing good. This is not exactly an admirable character trait of mine, but I’m just keeping it real. I want to do something BIG. I want to be REMEMBERED. It’s unlikely that my career choice will lend itself to these types of accolades.

But that’s okay. When it’s all said and done, is there anything more important than loving people? Is there anything that could possibly take precedence over making a preschooler feel loved and secure? At the end of my life, if the people around me all know that I loved them, that’s good enough for me.

“She loves me.” It doesn’t get better than that. Thank you for reminding me of what’s important, my little friend.

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13:13