The Muse LELA

The Muse LELA

This is my first week back to work/writing since my return from Mount Hermon.

I feel inspired and excited and beyond enthusiastic. I also feel sick to my stomach, as if I’ve taken on too much and am overwhelmed.

Enter, LELA.

In my mind’s eye, Lela is a vermillion-haired beauty with twinkling green eyes, dimples and a smattering of freckles across sun-kissed cheeks. An enchantress you would find on the moors with mist about her feet and the laugh of a devious sprite. She is part muse, part conscience.

Besides all of those things in my mind’s eye, LELA is a command center writing collaboration built with two other artists. LELA is a brain trust, a conservation of effort, a duplication of exposure, a wellspring of encouragement and enthusiasm and sometimes even the shackles that keep my feet planted firmly on terra firma. It is my pride and my modesty, it is my will and my conscience. It is my lofty dreams and my fear. It is reckless abandon and common sense all rolled into one. It is exactly the kind of grouping an artist needs, the kind of grouping I need. These artists are my “Go Pro” team and our collaboration is named LELA.

If you’ve read Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, you will instantly know what “Going Pro” is. (If you haven’t read it, check out my review here.)

As for the team element of Going Pro, it is a concoction of a mastermind group, a support group and a group of new, but trustworthy friends. When I decided to become a professional writer, it required a mental commitment. Since writing isn’t always the surest of incomes, it is sometimes hard to remember you are a professional writer when you are in between paychecks. When you are “in the trenches” so to speak. Especially in a society where success is measured in dollar signs.

A GoPro Team helps you stay focused and reminds you that you are in it for the art of it all, not just for the money. Money is lagniappe. You are in it because your soul tells you to be in it. You are driven there. It is easy for an artist to be solely driven and lonely and to hold an audience of zero in the pursuit of their art, but it isn’t necessary. As a matter of fact, I highly suggest you don’t go it alone. Having some steadfast, intelligent, similarly structured beings with whom to share your ideas can sometimes keep you from making a boneheaded mistake in the name of art. It can save you from wasting valuable hours.

However, not just any group will do. I’ve been a part of different, wide-ranging groups and I’ve met countless people in the writing world and it took me ages to find LELA and it happened rather organically.

I pursued two-thirds of my group (for you math wise folks, yes, it means I pursued everyone but myself). These were artists I met, admired, and wanted to be when I grow up — even though I’m the oldest of the bunch. I pursued them as friends. I pursued them as people to look up to, mentors. However, I did not pursue them as a GoPro Team. Yet that is what they became. And I’m grateful for that organic metamorphosis. Truly. And I pray I give as good as I get.

I will introduce you to my beautiful, exquisite GoPro team in weeks to come. No need keeping all of their greatness to myself, as tempting as that is.

I urge all of you artists out there to recognize that this doesn’t have to be a solo venture. God brings people in and out of your life for a purpose. You may already be in the presence of those who will help you reach greater depth in your art. Look around. Pursue if you have to.

By all means, Go Pro.

Mt. Hermon Take-away

Mt. Hermon Take-away

As many of you know, I entered a contest and was selected as one of ten winners who won admission to the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, including room and board.

I spent several fabulous days outside Santa Cruz, California. I communed with other writers, people in the writing industry and just all around good folks. I kayaked in the Pacific. I hiked through a redwood forest. But most of all, I learned a lot about myself and this crazy path I’m on.

1. Having goals is different than having a plan. Sometimes it’s the round-about-meandering path that gets us our goals more so, than the strict itinerary of a plan. It is amazing how free it is to walk into a writing conference with no agenda. Now I can’t claim I did that. My friend did that. But I soon dropped my agenda and decided there was so much more to gain if I would just shut-up for a second. And when I did, things started happening. Very. Good. Things.

2. Guess what? I totally dig kayaking and think I need a kayak. (you know, in case anyone reading this needs a hint for a birthday, mother’s day, or anniversary gift . . .)

3. I’m in a good place, geographically. I have a really great writing group right here in the Dallas area. The literary community is growing and I love LELA.

4. You know what? I have talent. Pashawwwwww. But it’s true. Strangers like my words, ideas and worlds. That’s pretty freaking amazing.

5. I’m super lucky to have the support of Big Tough and the Brood. My family digs my being a writer.

6. My mind was blown. I had this creamy Italian chocolate pot that was enough to write home about. (See the above pic. Amazing, right?) Thank you, MD!  It is called Deep Chocolate Indulgence and it includes a half slice of Chocolate Ecstacy Cake, a mini Italian Pot of Chocolate, and a Bittersweet Truffle. Holy cow, Batman.  Next time you are in Santa Cruz, Ca., go here, Chocolate on Pacific Ave.

7. And I learned to trust my gut, my heart and my husband.  (Whew.  Biggest and best for last.) This was exactly where I needed to be at exactly the right time. Big Tough’s words of encouragement have been an important part of my journey.

I’m still in the pinch-me phase and I fully recognize my life is forever changed.

So here is some BIG news. I am delaying The Proving Ring for just a bit (a year at most) while I finish up a couple non-fiction manuscripts that apparently my heart has been aching to write because I got requests for manuscripts of books I have not even started — from major publishing companies, no less. I may have another EPIC surprise on the horizon, too.  🙂

All in all, my little chickadees, don’t be disheartened. Dreams may be a long time in coming, but God knows the true and pure desires of your heart. Keep trying. Keep learning and by all means, don’t ever give up.

My Husband’s Hands

My Husband’s Hands

I had a dream the other day. It doesn’t seem like much, and to most people it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. But the dream has been bugging me all week.

In my dream, I am with my husband, BigTough, and his new family (which he doesn’t have in real life – totally make-believe) at a local ice cream shop. He has a notebook full of things from his youth, stories he has written, and ribbons he has won in track and field. He has a little screen with him. He pops in a home movie to show his new family. In the video I see close-ups of different art projects he worked on as a child, and report cards. All the things that represent his history. Then I see a close-up of him shuffling through papers.

Up until this point in the dream, I was fine. I sit across from his new bride with a big smile on my face. But when I see his hands I lose my mind.

Those hands are supposed to hold my hands.  Those hands are supposed to wipe away my tears. Those hands are supposed to run up and down my back when he holds me crying after our nest is empty.

Those hands are mine.

Now I don’t have a clue what this means, Except that I love him. I guess people put so much stock in what others look like, and what they themselves look like, when it’s something greater than that that makes a person beautiful.

I love my husband’s hands. I love them most when they’re holding mine.

My husband is handsome.

But you should see his hands.

Jigsaw Puzzle Manuscript

Jigsaw Puzzle Manuscript

Every once in a while I do something crazy.  Like yesterday.  I shaved nearly 10,000 words off of Act one of the Proving Ring and started rearranging things.

The characters have fleshed themselves out and know better where they need to be in the timeline than I did when I typed the first sentence of this manuscript.

So today I am putting all of the pieces together again.  At first I was nervous with an “OMG, WTF did I do?” moment.  But with the initial panic over, I see a tighter, leaner, meaner story.

 

Hiding From Wonder Woman

Hiding From Wonder Woman

I thought the women in  my life were strong.

I’ve grown up and I realize they were weak.  They were hiding.

The women in my life hid behind their men.  They hid behind convention.  They hid behind their faith. They hid behind the fear of all that could go wrong. They hid behind the shear act of existing.

And they taught me to do the same.

I’ve spent years of my life in hiding.  Not like witness protection hiding, where you are hiding because you are part of something bigger than yourself, but the kind of hiding where you’re fine never leaving a mark.  Never. Leaving. A. Mark.

When I was a little girl, I had a particularly strong affection for Wonder Woman and Princess Leia.  These were strong women. But they weren’t real.  They were fantasy and not something of this world. As much as I wanted to be Wonder Woman or Princess Leia, I was taught they were nothing more than fodder for dress-up.  They were who I could be when I was playing pretend. But for the real world – it was required I be a white-soled sneaker.

On the gym floor of life, I would never leave a mark.

Now, with half of my life behind me, I realize I’ve been wrong.

Wonder Woman and Princess Leia were the physical manifestations of the dreams of the collective girlhood of the 1970s in America.

Who didn’t want to fly an invisible plane? Who didn’t want to be a SPACE PRINCESS? No one. Duh.

But more importantly, who didn’t want to be significant somehow, in something that is right or good, or beautiful?

Girls of the 1970s realized maybe there was more. Maybe we could have actual dreams and not be outcasts for it. (Gasp. I know.  Startling, isn’t it.)

It took me awhile, but I’ve finally caught up. Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not hoisting a late-unfurling flag of feminism.  That’s not who I am.  I have a deep affection for many of the things modern feminism doesn’t enjoy, BUT I can be Princess Leia.  I can wind my hair in thick buns over each ear and fight a good fight. I can be Wonder Woman, grab my golden lasso and stand up for truth. To emulate my heroes does not mean I’m playing at life.  It means I’m living it.  Living it with wind in my hair and the sun on my face.

Yes, the women in my life hid behind their men when they should have been standing beside them.  They hid behind convention when they should have been re-writing the rules.  They hid behind their faith when God never asked them to be less than what He made them to be. They hid behind the fear of all that could go wrong when risk brings reward. They hid behind the shear act of existing without ever living.

I’ve abandoned what I was taught. I’ve written a new story for myself. And I’ve written it with a sharpie marker for everyone to see and no one to erase. I’ve hid from Wonder Woman for far too long.

As for the invisible jet? Wouldn’t that make car pool more fun?

Pick A Lane

Pick A Lane

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops. I know it sounds cliché, but coffee shops are pretty great places to be. The coffee is never-ending. There’s usually bites that are not good for the hips but perfectly great for the soul. And if you put your earbuds in, you can pretend all the other people there, aren’t there at all.

This morning I wanted to get a few hours of writing in before I headed to my day job. It was supposed to be my day off, so I pushed it to the very last second, as I’m known to do. (inner rebel) Perhaps even a few minutes longer than I should have, while waiting for my go-cup of coffee.

I made my way to the parking lot. I found my car with ease. I got in, put it in reverse and zipped down the lane to the exit of the strip shopping center.

Brake lights.

I found myself behind a woman in a white SUV. Midsize. Rather new. I could see her reflection in her side view mirror. She looked coiffed. Put together.

But she didn’t seem to have a clue where she was going.

She looked to her left. She looked to her right. She looked forward.

She kept the car stopped and in one position, straddling both her lane and the lane of oncoming traffic. There was no room to maneuver around her.

At first I was frustrated.  I said to myself, “Not everyone is confused lady, some of us know where we’re going. Some of us even know how we want to get there.”

That’s when the similarities to the situation and writing came to mind. I am blessed to know many writers. And I know many people who want to be writers. But they’re just sitting still, straddling the lanes and looking around.

They don’t seem to know what to do.  They don’t seem to know where to go.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones.  I have a prize in mind. And it’s not what you might think.

I want my stories read, my voice heard.

I want my voice out in the cosmos — as weak and feeble as my voice might sometimes be. I’m in my writing driver’s seat and I’ve chosen a lane.

I have a plan. I have a mind map. I have a calendar filled with goals and dates by which I want to achieve said goals. But I wasn’t always like this.

I was that woman, sitting in the car, not knowing where to go, for nearly all of my life.

I had a good professional life, which I set aside to be a mom and a caretaker for various family members who were gravely ill, some of whom have shuffled off this mortal coil.

But besides that, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was forty-something, still wondering what I was going to do when I grow up.

I love to write. (and yes, I smiled when I wrote that)

I always have. Since I first set crayon to construction paper. But being a writer didn’t translate in my world. I didn’t know how to make writing a  career. I was caught up in the monetizing, legitimizing, confidence eroding elements of “being” a writer. My mind equated career with financial success. And it was ruining me.

Sometimes, I don’t know if I’ll ever make much more than a dime from this. I definitely recognize that the hours I put in versus the money I receive don’t really add up. No one would call me a success, well most people, anyway. And that’s ok, because I believe my riches are greater still than anything you can figure with a calculator.

I’m happy. I’m delighted. I’m overjoyed. And I’m humbled to be an artist.

I’m excited to finally lay claim to that which has pretty much been a part of my soul since the moment I could speak.

I AM A STORYTELLER by birth and a writer by trade.

As long as I keep telling my stories, creating new worlds and new people, something of me will exist when my physical self no longer wanders this plane. I will exist.

In the mist. In the ether. In the eternal.

Physically, in the now. And in the later.

We’re all either neck-deep in the muck, searching for our souls’ desires, or we are straddling the lanes, knowing not which way to go. But each of us hopes we might figure out what our soul’s desire might be.

Soon.

Long before we draw our last breath.

Art is a dynasty. Even when the art is only for yourself.

Steven Pressfield wrote in Turning Pro, “What you and I are really seeking is our own voice, our own truth, our own authenticity.”

Whatever soul-searching venture the well coiffed, SUV driving lost soul, might be struggling with, I hope she finds what she needs. I hope she finds her way.

Dying in the Carpool Lane

Dying in the Carpool Lane

I’m a true foodie to my core, but I must admit, I really enjoy Chick-FIL-A breakfast biscuits with a crispy side of tots.

This morning, on the way to school I hit the drive through to get that yummy chick-fil-a breakfast before speeding off to the next school in my dreaded carpool lineup.

Finally, breakfast half eaten, I arrive at the last school of the morning. Eldest daughter is dropped off with goodbyes and I love you kisses and best wishes with confirmation of the time I’m expected back this afternoon. Now I can finish my breakfast while I navigate back to the house.

With my biscuit fully consumed, I have only a few tots left as I start to plow my way through the impatient sea of minivans and SUVs. Traffic slowing to a near standstill, I dip my tot into my tiny vat of chickfila sauce.

Then something happens. My years (like nearly 45 of them) of eating experience failed me. Rather than swallow that little chunk of sauce soaked potato, I inhale. Not in the eat fast way but in the “oh-my-God-I’ve-got-potato-in-my-lungs” way.

A fit of coughing, the likes of which I’ve not experienced before, overwhelms me. People behind me honk to speed up the line, which mind you was transitioning from stationary to snails’ pace. I try to scoot up, not letting my fellow carpoolers down, fully understanding my carpool exit strategy responsibilities. But, HELLO, I’m dying in here.

I continue to cough, wheeze, and gasp. Tears are streaming down my purple face. This is it.

With a phlegm filled hack I pound my chest and see stars, thinking I’m going to pass out. I cough so hard I’m sure I scared birds out of the trees and somehow misaligned newly forming planets. After all I was dying. I can be mildly irritating. The universe would give me a pass on that right?

Thoughts run through my head like “Who will pick up my kids?“and “Man, are the people behind me going to be pissed when I die and block their way out of here.”

Then the unthinkable happens.

With that last ginormous, raging hack I pee just a little. My thoughts are interrupted. “Did I just pee?”

My lungs still aching from lack of air, I convulsively cough again.

Did I just pee again?

By now I’m turning onto the main road. Mighty fine carpooler here. Now no one will be blocked in the driveway by my dead, urine soaked body.

I continue down the main road. Coughing. Peeing. Coughing. Peeing. All for another mile or so.

Wiping tears off my cheeks, it dawns on me. I don’t want to die in carpool covered in spit, phlegm, and pee with potato chunks and chickfila sauce stuck to my purple face.

I want to live! Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus! And you’re right Dorothy, there is no place like home. Damnit.

With a new lease on life and a serious debt owed to my guardian angel I’m off for a shower and an upholstery shampoo. Having used up a fair amount of today’s luck I really hope I don’t trip on the soap.

The Rest Is Up To Us . . .

girl-running-through-wheat

The following is a post from my old blog which is now defunct . It is eons old, but I always liked it.  So it will live here now.

 

The Rest is Up to Us . . .

02/13/2011

As many of you know, I haven’t seen my brother in ages. Did I tell you that sweet boy is a man now? Amazing!  I have been afraid of the “catching up” process and hoping we would still like each other after all these years.  He used to think I hung the moon, but I never did hang the moon.  I was worried about the real me competing with the old, faintly exaggerated memory of me.

He showed up this morning and suddenly I was hurled back to the 1970s.  I could see his white blond hair and bright blue eyes, green striped shirt and all the love, hope and admiration he used to show me when he would follow me, running in the tall grass in the field behind our grandparents’ house.  I was looking at a grown man and seeing the boy who had meant so much to me.  He is my BROTHER. Mine. Mine. Mine.

For some of you that might not mean much – you might have had your brother around so much that he made you crazy, or maybe you just didn’t click.  But this is MY BROTHER and that is a very big deal to me.  We never got to grow up together.  I was the product of a frantically passionate teenage marriage fraught with pain and infidelity.  My mom was 14 when she got pregnant with me. The marriage ended when I was quite young.  My brother was the product of our father’s second marriage, his mother and his upcoming birth the reason my dad left us.  This dynamic did not lend itself to happy family gatherings and as a matter of fact effort was made to keep us apart.

But some things you just can’t stop. Like the sun setting. Good byes from hurting.  And the pull between two kids given a bum rap from the start.

When I was a little older I moved away with my mom and my new dad to a whole new life far away. We drifted physical and emotional miles from each other and the hurt that comes with separation became like a neat little package you tie up with string and store some place private and dark. Secreted away in the deepest recesses of your heart.  What starts as a sharp, mind obliterating pain ebbs into just a dull, hollow echo of a life that is long past.

This morning he walked in my front door with his beautiful family and hugged me.

He said “Hey ya, sis.” and looked at me like I hung the moon.

I teared up, but I held it together.  I didn’t let myself cry.  I wanted to be the picture of happy (and believe me I was happy) but I was also pretty pissed off too.

How dare all the powers that be – my parents, his parents, hurt egos, offended pride, the he said/she said garbage that comes with the destruction of a family keep us away from each other for so long.

He seemed to know what I was thinking.  He said he had given it a lot of thought over the years and he was glad things worked out the way they did and that he has no regrets.

“It made us who we are, Leah, and we both survived.  No, we both thrived.” He grinned. “And we’re not that damaged.”

I hugged him.  We are strong and we can recognize BS before it gets on our shoes.  We know what real love is.  And we let love win.

As far as he was concerned we had simply hit “pause” and are now back, full-swing.  All the love that was there from before is bubbling back like a dry river bed suddenly awash with new life.

Every night, as I come here to talk about my day I am happy, but tonight I am more than happy.  It is a feeling I can’t even put into words.  I feel like an old mama dog who won’t rest until all of her pups are accounted for.  It is like I have been counting and coming up short for so much of my life but now the numbers are finally right.  I just can’t explain it.

I sit here in peace.  Content.  Today was a big step in healing old wounds.  It just goes to show our past isn’t the end all be all of our lives.  We actually have a say in how things go from here on out.  The rest really is up to us.