Living in the present is both something that I conscientiously try to do, maybe more than most people…. and it’s also something which is a real and honest struggle for me.
It’s started really early for me. I can probably peg it to a dream I had when I was about four. I had this dream that my mom died, and I woke up crying because I realized-for the first time- that one day she probably would go before me. It became my worst fear for most of my childhood. My mom was my best friend, and I didn’t want her to go. I tried to appreciate her as much as possible. Then, as many of you know, she did end up leaving this world way too soon. Have you ever had your childhood nightmare unfurl in front of you? Trying to stretch time out before the trauma comes, to love as hard as possible but finding it’s not enough to retain the present? It leaves you with a weird relationship with time. You realize that it will keep slipping away even as you try, so deliberately, to soak it in.
I also remember when I turned 10, being kind of contemplative about how great my childhood had been up until that point and the fact that it was going by too quickly. I was definitely aware that time was speeding up and I needed to enjoy it, but the fact that I was so aware made it hard to do that.
Was I just a weird kid? Are there others of you out there?
There are a plethora of similar examples, but I think they all essentially represent a serious paradox of the introspective, melancholy type.
Fundamentally, we are aware of the present. We are aware of its joy, of its depth in grief, of its illusive inability to be captured. There are photographs we consciously take in an awareness of the fleetingness of life. I do think that those mental photographs are one of the best things I do to live in the present, but it’s still hard to keep the ongoing moment in focus when I know I am trying to remember something that might be gone, later. My mind always is slipping forward, to the “What if? Whens?” or backward to the “Remember?” It’s hard to keep it still.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that’s all bad. The fact that my brain tries too hard to appreciate the present does actually help me appreciate people and events in my life better, I think. However, it can still steal my joy in the present.
I was struggling the other night as I lay in bed, caught between memories and inevitabilities and yearning for the peace of the present.
I realized, suddenly, that I have one anchor throughout all my life. Just one.
The Lord is in every time and every place, and He has always been-will always be-with me, wherever I am. There’s a saying that, in life, we enter and leave alone, but as a Christian I know that that’s not true. My God is with me in every stage of my life, and there is so much comfort in that realization.
So my prayer for today-yours, if you want it- is for joy in the present, appreciating but not overthinking. Each moment God has made was made to be lived in.
“This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118: 24
Recently, I decided to publish a short story of mine using Kindle Direct Publishing.
My reasons were pretty simple:
- I had a finished something that I thought people might enjoy reading, but as a single, short story, it wasn’t the sort of thing I felt would be a good fit for trying to publish the traditional way.
- I was wanting to figure out how hard/simple self-publishing through Kindle is.I mean, I’ve always kind of wondered. Haven’t you? It’s something a lot of us aspiring writers think about, right? I considered this to be kind of a tester; if I liked it, I would consider submitting other good-fit-for-self-publishing works (GFSPW) in the future. What is a GFSPW? I’ll get there.
- It just seemed like it would be fun. I think about doing things “one day,” but don’t always follow through. It feels good to follow through.
So my short story, “The Memory Thief,” (Do you want to read it?? Click HERE) came out and several people read it and gave me good feedback, which felt really good. I didn’t make much money out of it or anything, but that wasn’t really why I did it (not this time anyway). See, Kindle has two royalty options if you self-publish. Depending on the price of your book, you can chose the amount of royalties you receive (generally 70% or 30%). You can read about that at kdp.amazon.com. But, anyway, I ended up choosing the 30% option because I didn’t want to ask more than $0.99 for my short story. If you do the math on that, you’ll see that I’d have to sell a whole lot of copies to make any kind of money.
But the whole process was really fun, and it got me thinking about how we pre-judge self-publishing as a last resort sometimes when, really, it might be the best option for that particular little manuscript you have sitting around on your desk.
Here are some reasons self-publishing might be the best fit for your story:
- You want to be in control of when your book is released (and how much you make from it). I got to thinking about this. Let’s say I had a book that I knew people would be interested in reading, so I choose the 70% royalty option and price my book at $4.99. I could potentially make a decent amount of money, a lot sooner than the author who gets his or her book published the traditional way, particularly if I invested a little in advertising. That’s something to think about if you want to make your living from your pen, and do it fast.
- You are willing to be more than just a writer, or at least willing to ask others for help. The way technology works today (social media, Twitter, vlogs) gives creative types a means to be our own managers in an unprecedented way. However, you do have to work. Furthermore, if you are self-publishing something you have written, you also want it to be as polished as it can be. To take advantage of all the possible opportunities and make your book stand-out amidst the plethora of self-published works, it’s going to take either a versatile person who can edit, graphic design and knows something about SEO and/or marketing. Or it’s going to take asking/ hiring other people to do those things. If you can do that, self-publishing might be a good fit for you.
- You have a GFSPW. Totally a term I made up, and I told you I’d explain what that means, so here’s what I think it means. You might have a GFSPW (Good for Self-Publishing Work) if:
- You are previously unpublished but you have written: a collection of poetry, a short story or anthology of short stories. This kind of stuff is extra hard to get published the traditional way (unless, paradoxically, you are published already…), but if you get it out there initially through self-publishing it can be a good first step for your future endeavors….and…people get to see into your mind a little, which is very satisfying for authors and poets, in particular.
- You are writing genre fiction that falls into the romance (or paranormal romance), mystery, sci-fi or fantasy category. Maybe your book, or series of books, isn’t something that you feel would stand out to publishers. However, with a genre like this, you can feel pretty confident that if it’s well-written and well-advertised, people will download it on Kindle. A TON of self-published authors make a nice living by being in control of their own genre-fiction.
- On the other hand, you could also have a good GFSPW if you are publishing something that doesn’t really fit into a box. Publishing houses like works with a clearly defined genre/readership. You could have something great, but maybe it’s just a little bit of a square peg to the round hole. For instance, my mom wrote a book (that is my next project, and one I also plan to self-publish), and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to tie it to one specific genre, or even two. Because of that, and the fact that I really want it out there, I’m probably going to do the KDP route again.
Having your book published the traditional way is, of course, an immense honor! There are projects of mine that I definitely would rather see the light of day via the publishing house avenue, if I am ever that fortunate. However, I also think there are plenty of reasons to choose (not settle for, choose) self-publishing as well. What about you writers out there? Thoughts?
P.S. the GFSPW acronym got me thinking about S.P.E.W. 10 points if you know what that is.
Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Today I wanted to make myself a proper cup of English tea, and in doing so I came across this mug:
It’s pretty fortuitous that I would be using this Irish blessing mug on today of all days. And not just because it’s Irish, actually. This mug has a story.
When I was 14, I traveled back and forth between Georgia and Mississippi with my parents once a month, and we would stay in this house (the same one I live in now) for a week. This house actually belonged to my great-grandparents, and it’s special to all of my family. It’s not that it’s large or fancy or worth whole lot of money; it’s really just a small, simple house, a bit rough around the edges these days. Despite those things, it’s rich in memories for all of us, and I feel very blessed that my dad was able to bring us to live here part-time then, and that I get to live here full-time now.
Anyway, back to then. After about a year of traveling back and forth so frequently, my family stopped and stayed in GA for awhile. This house lay empty for almost ten years. I remember the first time I brought Dane, then my boyfriend (I think it was 2010) to this house. It was so strange, like it had been frozen in time. The pictures we had kept on the fridge were still there, my old bedroom had an issue of Pointe magazine (I was a ballerina) on the nightstand and the photo I had pinned to the mirror of Josh Groban was still there. It was eerie, to be honest, as if my 14 year old self still existed and had just run out to do something.
And now, even more years later, I live here again, and new memories of my life with Dane and Kora and my Mississippi relatives are layered over those snapshots of time from that year I spent sweet time here with my parents. The fact that my dad has since had a stroke and my mom has passed away makes it seem like much longer ago than a mere 12 years (sometimes, I feel ancient) then there are the other memories-memories from when I was a little kid and I’d come here to see my Mamaw and all of my cousins and I would run around in the yard. There are more stories still, overlapping that–memories that are not my own, but my dad’s, my uncle’s, my aunt’s…stories that didn’t happen to me, but are still a very real part of who I am.
How the heck did I get to this thought-rambling with a mug full of tea (which is now cold, btw)? Here’s how: I bought that mug when I was 14, on one of our trips here. Somehow it had become buried among my Mamaw’s Christmas mugs in the deepest, darkest corner of the kitchen cabinets. And, despite the fact that we’ve been in this house for over a year now, I only recently re-discovered it.
It just made me think of the way that memories layer themselves. They hide, are found, take on new meanings later.
When I was 14, I’m sure the words “May the road rise up to meet you,” made me think of some grand adventure that I was going to have (my LOTR fandom was at its height), but now those words make me think of what a dreamer I was then and what it felt like to have an open road of possibilities. I think of how life did not turn out the way I thought it would, but how I truly do love my life.
The roads we walk are never predictable, but we have to enjoy them as they unfold, because we only get one road -I hope I can always stop and look back on the way the memories I’ve created along the way-the gorgeous moments and the tragic ones. Those moments overlap and combine to create one beautiful life that I am grateful for.
Thanks Irish Blessing Mug. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
You know how Oprah has her favorite things?
And then she’s like….
Well, I’m a little Oprah-inspired here, so I’d like to share, with YOU, some of my favorite things….or “Things to Love.”
While I can’t promise you they will be hiding under your seat, hopefully they are things that you can have in your life, easily, and enjoy them as much as I do.
Also, my enthusiasm may not wear suits and fling it’s arms out wide, but that’s only because I have to take a selfie of my own excited face.
10 Things to Love in February
- Tea from a teapot. I learned this in England and conveniently forgot it after I’d been back in the states for awhile: tea is ALWAYS better from a teapot. Lately, I’ve been trying to drink more green tea lately, and making a nice, steamy pot of tea makes me actually want to drink it.
- My own candle. No one else’s, just mine. To be burnt only when I want, and extinguished only when I want. My aunt bought me this one, soiree from Park Hill Candles. It’s probably the most amazing and fragrant candle ever. Don’t touch my candle!
- 3. Relatives who babysit. Grad school has been super tough lately. It’s hard to concentrate for hours at a time on heavy philosophical stuff when your little child is crying and/or needing something and/or scrambling around on the floor, heading for the fireplace. I’ve had some help this week. Kora has had a blast with her family, and it’s been such a blessing to me.
2. The Valentine’s Day aisle. I am a Valentine’s Day freak. I love it. When I see all the pink and red hearts everywhere, my heart has a panic attack of love.
3.Taking a walk. Good de-stressor. Good way to stay in shape. Good time to talk with friends.
4. Skinny chocolate. Guilt-free, healthy, easy to make. It’s a Trim Healthy Mama thing. and there are lots of yummy variations. I’m not even doing Trim Healthy Mama, I just think it’s a win-win.
5. Jazz music. Light that special candle, make a pot of tea, put on some Jazz music, and what do you have? You have company in like five minutes because I’m so there. Seriously. We’ve been playing older and contemporary jazz a ton in this household lately. It makes every night feel special, like a party.
6. Johnny Flynn. Johnny Flynn’s music is also on frequent rotation around here. I hadn’t heard of him until I watched Song One a few months ago, and “the main singing guy” was my favorite thing about it. I love his sound, his lyrics and the many emotions his music evokes.
7. Essential Oils I’ve been using doTERRA essential oils regularly for the past few weeks. I love to have something diffusing pretty much all the time-it really can change how you feel, physically and emotionally. I’ve got “On Guard” protective blend going on right now-cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, rosemary and eucalyptus. (the baby in this picture is pretty good, too)
10. Family Dinner at the booth. We live in my great-grandparents house. My “mamaw” cooked fried chicken and sugar cookies- you know, standard Mississippi love- on a non-stop basis when they were still around, and fed everybody. They were legendary in their love and hospitality. Our whole extended family has great memories of the kitchen here, and of the built-in wooden booth that is reminiscent of a diner. I usually work on things there, but we haven’t eaten dinner at it very much. Well, Kora finally got a high-chair and, since then, we have had dinner every night at the booth. It’s been such an awesome bit of quality time together in the evenings.
We had a date-night last night. Our movie of choice? Pride Prejudice and Zombies. It’s been awhile since I did one of these, but here follows my AMWAM (as many words as minutes) review!
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
Movie run-time/word count: 108 minutes/words
The book we’ve all contemplated buying as a gag-gift for the literature lover in our lives is now devour-able at the big screens.
Don’t go see this one if you are the hardcore, A&E, Colin-Firth-all-the-way kind of person (you know who you are). This is the movie for Austen fans who aren’t too serious. This is for the loyal boyfriends who have sat through every re-telling, wishing they knew what the big deal was about.
Also, pretty sure Lily James is the new “it girl.”
More comedy than anything, this film is like having a bizarre, hilarious dream after back-to-back Downton Abbey/Walking Dead marathons.
I’d watch it again.
In case you didn’t know, Groundhog’s Day was this week.
And Puck-satanu…PUSUTO (Googling this)… Punxsutawney Phil has declared an early spring. Does anyone else ever feel like this happens very rarely? For years and years and years, it was just those extra weeks of cold. There’s probably a scientific reason for this that I learned once-upon-a-time, but while I can make myself Google the correct spelling of a groundhog’s proper name, I don’t really feel like mustering up the energy to remember how the seasons work right now. Deal with it.
I’m happy about an early spring, even though it’s not my very favorite season (autumn is, on strict principal)…. Growing up in the North Georgia mountains, surrounded by trees and a big, beautiful lake, autumn was a signal of adventure. It wasn’t just the crisp chill in the air, the smell of campfire smoke or the fiery leaves, either. Autumn was the time we went camping, autumn was when we could take a break to go meet my grandparents in a cabin in the mountains for our annual, special get-together. I miss autumn in the mountains.
Right now, however, I live in Mississippi. And Mississippi’s Queen of the Seasons is undoubtedly Spring.
The light here changes, illuminating the numerous old gray barns and buildings. In winter they are old and worn-out, in summer they are white-washed harshly, seeming unfriendly. In the spring, the gold touches them, hinting at their history, their magic. In spring all old things are brought to life again; they have transcended through time, and been born anew.
Mornings of a hundred years ago are freshly evoked: the smell of warm, damp grass and hay, the sunshine on dew-drops in the green fields, and the soothing saltiness of the air that only comes with being not far from the coast.
There is a lush, floral scent, too, hanging on every bush and tree. Gardenias and azaleas mostly, I think, but dozens of other flowers chime in with their own accent fragrances.
For me, there are also the memories of Mississippi springs from my growing up years. The trips we took to visit family for so many years on warm, balmy vacations, the Easters with cousins, running around in gardens, the family meals and something special in the true closeness with these people we only saw a few times a year.
Now I live here, as a grown-up in a whole different place of life. I have that closeness, but it is different now. So many things have changed since then, and the memories I share with my family is mingled with loss and newness and love and freshly found relationships.
Spring, I think, will embrace these changes, because it is, itself, always reminiscent, and always new.
So I’m waiting on the flowers to bloom in the front yard, for the day I can pull my shorts and flip-flops out of storage, for sitting on the porch and inhaling that sweet, country breeze that carries with it the love of a hundred Mississippi springs before this one.
Just a very short post today, because I’ve got to be heading out the door soon.
Today, here’s where I am: aware of my need of redemption.
We sing about redemption a lot in church; it’s part of the Christian lexicon. This is as it should be, the word is important in the Christian faith…but man, sometimes I think the power of the term goes unrecognized and it takes some broken-heartedness to remember it.
Biblically speaking, the title of “redeemer” goes back to the Old Testament, referring to a “kinsman redeemer” who was able to act on behalf of another to save them from trouble, whether this is making them good in the eyes of the law or literally rescuing them. The kinsman redeemer is kind of the white knight who brings things back where they need to be. In the New Testament, this term is fulfilled by Jesus, the ultimate kinsman redeemer. I think a lot of times we accept this as a part of Christianity–that, in order to be saved, we need redemption from our sins.
We know that part is key, but I think we forget sometimes that it’s not a one-time deal. Our hearts wander constantly, and we’ll require this saving re-direction as long as we live. We are like kids who really, really want to touch the thing we’re not supposed to (I type before re-navigating Kora away from underneath the recliner).
The past week has been rough for me. Not rough on the outside, or in anything that happened particularly. The problem has been on the inside. I am struggling with myself–with my own unrealistic expectations (INFPs understand), over-sensitivity, doubt, worry, sadness, selfishness of perspective. I’ve felt lonely, with no one to share these private thoughts and feelings. There’s no one who can understand my soul, and no one can help resolve the troubles of myself (the Hebrew word for self, “nephesh”, is appropriate here, encompassing, body, mind, soul, self-ness…) Not even my husband can fully get me or fix me: as wonderful as he is, he is just a person, too.
The problem with trying to dump your heart’s brokenness on any other person is that we are all a bit broken-unable to carry the weight of our own problems, let alone understand or solve someone else’s. I’m not saying don’t rely on people, I’m just saying that ordinary people can’t offer real redemption of the heart. Ordinary people can’t keep bringing you back to a place of peace, no matter how far away you feel from it. Only God does that.
“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”-Isaiah 41:13
My prayer today is that God will bring my brokeness back to Him and love me again. I don’t need saving once and for all–I’ve already received eternal salvation.
I DO still need saving, each and every day. I need redemption every day. Please redeem my heart, today, Lord. Bring it back to where you want it to be.
“Wonderful, merciful Savior
Precious Redeemer and friend
Who would have thought that a lamb could
Rescue the souls of men
Oh, You rescue the souls of men
Counselor, Comforter, Keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost the way
Oh, we hopelessly lost the way…”
-Wonderful, Merciful Savior (Hymn)
Where am I? Currently at the booth in the kitchen, surrounded by printed out pages of scholarly articles, baby in my arms (originally in her Moby wrap, but she’s adamantly wrestled her way out of the confines, as she’s been doing often, lately). For now, I am giving up on trying to read this super heavy philosophical stuff (which requires some serious concentration under normal circumstances), and am adjusting said baby (very wiggly) back and forth….annd I thought I’d write a short blog instead.
And now, I’m preparing for some people to be mad at me, but I’m just going to say it:
My baby has slept all the way through the night, 95% of the time, since she was two months old. She goes to bed about 10 p.m. and sleeps until 7:30, and that’s how it is, folks.
I’m incredibly grateful for this. I like my sleep. Some friends have jokingly called Kora a “bait baby” (because, you know, she’s bait to have another one).
As AWESOME as it is to get that sleep, I just recently realized that Kora is very unusual in another way, compared to most babies.
She doesn’t really nap.
Like, hardly at all.
I put her down for two naps. She usually sleep for about 10 minutes around 10:30 a.m. and about 20 minutes at 3 p.m. That’s all, unless her routine is thrown off or she’s not feeling well. The rest of the time, she’s super, super, super active, exploratory, wiggly and wants to be played with, which is also really sweet and awesome and everything, and I love it.
However, it does make getting things-particularly academic or work-like things- done during the day difficult.
She really doesn’t ever stop moving and exploring. Who is this girl going to be? What is she going to do? How did she come out like this?
It’s crazy to me how people just come out, and they just ARE. They are already personalities. And we have to patiently wait until they start speaking so we can ask them all about it.
So, on babies who sleep through the night, like mine….
I wouldn’t trade my blissful nights of solid sleep…I’m TOTALLY grateful for it. But I kind of wonder if the ones who sleep through the night are just preparing for a day of non-stop: NAPS? WHAT NAPS? IT’S GO TIME, MOM!
Also, she’s about to start crawling, like, right on the verge.
So there’s my workout program for 2016.
Today, where I am is a bit of a grey space (but if I spell “grey” the British way, doesn’t that make it more romantic?)
It’s not like anything terrible happened. I’ve just been in a bit of a funk since last night, one of those rare nights (I usually sleep like a log), when I had trouble falling asleep. A lot of my negative emotions-worry, doubt, sad memories and feelings- started creeping up on me, so I decided to at least try to get some reading done, which was good. However, I had some pretty disturbing dreams and woke up feeling generally grumpy and overwhelmed with stuff to do and not very “Carpe Diem.” I think if we’re honest, most of us have experienced a blah kind of morning like that. Anyway, I’m going to give myself some advice on how to get this day going the right direction. You are welcome to take it as advice for yourself, too.
Disclaimer: Not sure that everything on this list is applicable for dudes.
- Do 2 things right away: Get the coffee going and make your bed. Knowing that some fresh coffee is on it’s way is an immediately good start to a potentially chaotic morning, and if you make your bed first thing (while the coffee is brewing), you already feel like a somewhat put-together person. My aunt taught me this one. It works.
- Spend a few minutes getting your priorities straight for the day. I failed on this today, but I’m about to start over by reading my devotional. I’ve been trying to read “Jesus Calling” in the mornings. It’s a short but powerful little devotional that’s become pretty popular in the last few years. It basically takes specific Scriptures for each day and merges them together in a format that makes it like a daily letter from Jesus to the reader, including the scriptural references so you can expand your daily study. I also find I have a better morning when I make a to-do list for the day. I try to get something in there from each area of my life, and I also try to not make impossible lists.
- Look like an actor in a technicolor film. Wear bright colors. Go ahead and do your hair/makeup extra snazzy (snazzy?) if that makes you feel more human. There’s something to looking good=feeling good.
- Aromatherapy. Whether you diffuse some bright essential oils, light a candle, or spritz yourself with your favorite fragrance before heading out the door, aromatherapy makes you take deep breaths and, when you exhale, you feel encouraged.
- Do something you’ve been putting off. For me, that will be folding the laundry that has been in the dryer for two days. What did my last post say? Oh yeah, I SUCK at laundry. It’s true, guys. Next on my list…..writing a thingy about post-colonialism and Homi Bhabha…hmm.
- Plan something creative. Whether that’s cooking (which some days is the easiest way to get your creative in, because you’d probably have to do it anyway) or playing a musical instrument, writing, drawing, coloring, whatever.
- Plan something physical. Especially something that takes you outside or makes you be social, like a short walk outside or a group fitness type thing. Being outside of your normal state and/or hanging with people who just want to share the sheer joy of movement can be a game changer.
- Listen to music. What’s your jam? What makes you want to dance? That’s the kind of music I’m talking about.
- Change your posture and your expression. There are a lot of TED talks about this. Make yourself look confident, put a smile on your face. It will actually change how you feel (and how people treat you.)
- If all else fails, probably you should just watch “You’ve Got Mail,” and think about what Kathleen Kelly would do. I think she’d probably put up twinkle lights, go out and get some daisies and read a book. Or she’d go to the mattresses (also, btw, that’s what the Godfather would do).