Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Being Okay With Being a Little Broken

If you chance to meet a frown
Do not let it stay
Quickly turn it upside-down
And smile that frown away.

No one likes a frowny face.
Change it for a smile.
Make the world a better place by smiling all the while.
-The Children's Songbook

Miracles are healing because they supply a lack; they are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less.   
-A Course in Miracles

A couple of weeks ago, I had a series of bad days that culminated one Tuesday afternoon when I found myself completely unable to function like I needed to.  I was tired and overwhelmed, one of those days when my bed seems to have strengthened its gravitational pull by one thousand, combining with my brain to seduce me into the sweet escape of sleepy oblivion.  My sweet husband found me wrapped up in a sad cocoon in my bed and called my mama, who offered to watch the children for the afternoon.  I roused myself long enough to text my friend Hana and let her know that I wouldn't be over to visit that afternoon like we had planned, that my mom was taking the kiddos and I was going to spend some time alone.  And sweet Hana knew that I needed something.  She responded, "Are you okay?  Do you need someone to talk to?"  And I, who early in life deeply internalized the idea that "no one likes a frowny face," and very rarely let people in on my crap, decided that I would just let it all hang out.  So I texted back and said that I was not okay.  That I was exhausted and sad and angry and overwhelmed and that I would very much like to talk.

And so she came over.  And we talked.  I told her all my frustrations.  I cried.  And it felt fabulous.  Faaaabulous.  My burdens were lifted just in talking about them.  And do you know what? She was totally okay with my frowny face.  In fact, our friendship deepened as a result of that afternoon conversation. She called me the next day and I answered the phone without even being afraid.  This is big for me, who only answers the phone fearlessly for approximately four people.

And do you know what else?

On a whim, she ended up loaning me a book that I needed.  That I really, really needed.

Nobody wants to be friends with a person whose life is perfect.  I mean, it's true that not a lot of people are going to be want to spend large quantities of time with someone who is persistently negative, whiny, and critical, but that doesn't mean that you can't be real.  That you can't say, "Sometimes I hate my life."  Because  everybody hates their life sometimes.  And it's really, really nice to know you're not alone. That someone is there with you, and they see your flaws, and they still like you anyway.

Being okay with yourself means being okay with your broken bits, too.  I suspect that true happiness is  hinges on this idea.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why I Don't Play Computer Games

Like every hot-blooded American child, I played Nintendo games.  When we got our first PC in 1992, I spent my fair share of time playing Jones in the Fast Lane, Sleuth, Oregon Trail, and Commander Keen. But as I grew into adolescence, I lost interest.  And for years I hardly thought about computer games at all, except for an occasional late-night Tetris binge.    

And then I got married and my relationship with computer games quickly became antagonistic.  Those of you non-gamers who are married to gamers will know exactly what I'm talking about.  

Anyway, Abe decided recently that I needed to spend some time playing his latest computer game love, Skyrim, so I could see how fun it was.  I've always resisted his attempts to drag me into his games, contending that I have way better ways to spend my spare time, but he looked so cute and eager that I couldn't resist.     

Well.  It was not fun.  It was stressful.  Just navigating the guy around the screen required massive amounts of concentration.  There were arrow keys and letter keys that did stuff and then mouse movement and all those mouse buttons I didn't even know existed.  And the whole time I was worried about bad stuff happening.  What if someone tried to hurt me?  What if I fell off the cliff?  What if I got lost?  What if I did something bad and got in trouble?    

Finally, I got stuck in the basement of some creepy building in a village and begged Abe to let me quit.  The thought of having to expend problem-solving energy towards problems that didn't actually exist was exhausting to me.

And I guess that's the clincher.  I spend enough time in my real life solving problems.  I don't feel the need to invent more to solve.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reading Journal: The Grapes of Wrath

Just read this for the first time, which is a little embarrassing for an English major.  Shhh.  Don't tell.  

And it is so good.  So good.  It rocked my world the way The Good Earth rocked my world.

I was telling my mom that it I thought it was beautiful and Abe remarked, "That isn't the word I would use for it!" So I amended with, "well, it's beautifully....earthy."

The Grapes of Wrath is full of insights into the human condition, written with flawless, descriptive, warming language, and peopled with sweet, honest, simple, and wise characters.  

My heart broke for the hopeless circumstances that so many good, hard-working people found themselves in during the Depression, circumstances that no amount of work and effort could mitigate. The book helped provide insight to me for the reasons behind legal regulations regarding workers' rights and minimum wage laws.  It was also a reminder of how easy it is to justify ourselves in allowing others to suffer.
Some of my favorite quotes....

The preacher said, "She looks tar'd."
"Women's always tar'd," said Tom.  "That's just the way women is."

"I figgered about the Holy Sperit and the Jesus road, I figgered, 'Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus?  Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all women we love, maybe that's the Holy Sperit-- the human sperit-- the whole shebang.  Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of.'  Now I sat there thinkin' it, an' all of a suddent-- I know it.  I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it."  - The Preacher.

"When you're young, ever'thing that happens is a thing all by itself.  It's a lonely thing.  You're gonna have a baby, Rosasharn, and that's somepin to you lonely and away.  That's gonna hurt you, an' the hurt'll be lonely hurt, an' this here tent is alone i the worl', Roshasharn.  They's a time of change, an when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearing' is a piece of all bearin', and bearin' and dyin' is two pieces of the same thing.  An' then things ain't so lonely anymore.  An' then they don't hurt so bad."  -Ma

"If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do'll make him feel rich-- not rich like Mis' Wilson was when she give her tent when Grampa died.  I ain't tryin' to preach no sermon, but I never seen nobody that's busy as a prairie dog collectin' stuff that wasn't disappointed."  -The Preacher

"When I was a little girl I use' ta sing.  Folks roun' about use' ta say I sung as nice as Jenny Lind.  Folks use' ta come an 'listen when I sung.  An'-- when they stood-- an' me a singin', why, me an' them was together more'n you could ever know.  I was thankgful.  There ain't so many folks can feel so full up, so close, an' them folks standing there an' me a-singin'.  An'-- that's why I wanted you to pray.  I wanted to feel that clostness, oncet more.  It's the same thing, singin' an' prayin', jus' the same thing.  I wisht you could a-heerd me sing."  - Mrs. Wilson

"Sure I got sins.  Every'body got sins.  A sin is somepin you ain't sure about.  Them peopel that's sure about ever'thing an' ain't got no sin-- well, with that kind of aon-of-a-bitch, if I was God I'd kick their ass right outa heaven!  I couldn't stand 'em."  -The Preacher

"If you think it was a sin-- then it's a sin.  A fella builds his own sins right up from the groun'."  -The Preacher

Saturday, December 08, 2012


When I was in the fourth grade I entered a writing contest and lost.  I came home heartbroken.  My mom sat down with me, hugged me close, and told me that the world's greatest authors had drawers just bursting with rejection letters, that I was merely joining their ranks, that I shouldn't give up.    

Later that year we were asked to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we were grown up.  I drew a picture of myself, sitting in an attic room at a computer, writing, smiling.  Next to me was a filing cabinet drawer labeled "rejection letters."  When I grew up, I was going to be an author.

But when you really, really, really want something, it's easy to become afraid.  You fear failure.  You fear that the thing you want the most is the thing you won't be able to have.  So you pretend you don't want it.  You say you're too busy.  You say it's not that great anyway.

I have been afraid of writing fiction for many years.  Several years in a row I tried participating in National Novel Writing Month, only to give up within a week.  Sitting down to write was the most uncomfortable thing in the world for me.  My heart would grow tight.  My mind would shut down.  I had nothing.  There was nothing for me to write.  I couldn't write.

And then, just a few months ago, my friend Lara published her own novel.  I read it and was so impressed.  And at the same time, emboldened.  Gosh darn it, I thought.  If Lara, who is like me in so many ways, can write a novel, so can I.   I did some research about how to write a novel and had a massive breakthrough when I discovered an outlining technique that utilizes a spreadsheet.  I love spreadsheets, and knew it was for me.  I spent several weeks outlining a novel in detail.  And then I closed my eyes and plunged in.

I am now writing a novel.  Slowly.  But I'm doing it.  Several days a week I sit down and work on it.   I set a timer for twenty minutes (just like I do when I'm cleaning the house) so I don't get overwhelmed by the prospect of writing interminably.  I read an inspirational quote or two.  I remind myself that it is okay to suck, to write ridiculous and low-quality fiction, but that it is not okay to hide from your dreams.

And then I write.

So far I have 14 single-spaced pages.   I think I might just do it this time.


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