Monday, August 29, 2016

I'm a Writer, Dagnabbit!

Here I am, still sorting out a huge pile of books and papers representing my life.

Bills. Ads. Tons of notes. But what's this? Oh, the missing manuscript I was looking for before the writer's conference. The one I never had time to write a proper proposal for because of the previous chaos. Joy and Rapture, I found it too late- my cup runneth over with no publishing prospects. Again. Ugh.

And yet, once the other papers were sorted, I started leafing through this manuscript- the one I'd haven't read in over a year. Oddly enough, I was reading it like a reader, not a writer. And what I read was surprising.

The stories made me laugh.

A second surprise- I realized that I really am a writer. The fact that I can read my manuscript and still giggle tells me that it's pretty darn good- and that yes, it seems I really do have a God-given gift, and my stories might bring others joy.

I'm a writer, dagnabbit!

Honestly, I'm not trying to toot my own bicycle horn here- I'm as surprised as anyone else! The stories I read made me remember when my brother's goldfish 'mysteriously' died under my care, I felt the awe when seeing my mom panic upon receiving my first scar, and the heat from the glares of the grumpy old man that lived down the street- and the fear I felt when he threatened my little life if I rode my Big Wheel just one more time on his property.

I am a writer. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

It's the strangest feeling, reading your own work and realizing that it's not moose drool. In fact, I'm encouraged to get that sucker published- if it gets in the right hands. Those hands might even be my own.

If you're not a writer, you might not understand. Writers are a very unstable lot- we spend hours in a room by ourselves, writing, writing, writing, then when we're done, we want to go out somewhere to be alone. The truth is we just spent an entire writing session with a bunch of characters in our head, and we need time by ourselves to clear our thoughts.

We constantly second guess ourselves, are over critical of our work, and wonder 'why, oh why did we even try to write this drivel'? Even when published, we wonder if others will see value in our work- though I admit, I have yet to experience that particular phobia.

Writers are a crazy bunch, but an interesting one!

I have two manuscripts. One is long, and one is short. And both could still use a little tweaking. The problem is, a writers' work will always need tweaking- we just have to learn to stop before we tweak the heart and soul out of a manuscript!

I read the stories. I giggled some more. I put the manuscript down with a smile. My work wasn't moose drool after all.

I am a writer, dagnabbit!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Actions Boost Prayer Power

Prayer is an awesome thing. When people gather to pray, those prayers can heal, save, and protect us and those around us, But sometimes God wants us to do more.

In James 2:14-17 it says 'What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.'

Too many times do I see Christians pray for one another through hardships, but offer nothing other than prayer. I've caught myself doing this- a lot! It's one thing if all you can do is pray for someone, but when you can act on those prayers and don't, that's where the seeds of trouble sprout.

Believe me, I have a lot of those weeds in my own spiritual garden! The finger I'm pointing points at myself.

I've prayed for those who have lost a loved one, but until I suffered the same, I never realized that I should've been praying not only for, but with those that had lost someone. I could've given them my ear to listen, spent time hearing their stories or let them vent. But I didn't. I basically gave them a hug, said I would pray for them, and went on my merry Christian way. Only after I was in the privacy of my own prayer space did I pray for them. For all they knew, I'd forgotten all about them and their troubles.

Oh, but when I was hurting and someone came to me who prayed and then listened....

Prayers are powerful. but actions boost those prayers in a mighty way. It made me realize that if I can do more, I should- whether it's the hungry person on the street, a troubled neighbor, or my fellow Christians- actions speak louder than words (especially to unbelievers)- but actions also give prayers a huge power boost. 

Actions aren't the end-all be-all of the universe. Actions are powerful in of themselves, as is prayer. But put them together, and Wow! God loves it when we do both- it let's Him shine all the brighter!

Don't stop praying. Don't stop acting on those prayers if you can. Pull up those spiritual weeds and let the blessings blossom!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mess Monsters

My house is a wreck.

The housework has waned since I started working odd jobs last year, and was nearly non-existent when my mom started getting worse. Two out of three funerals are done (my husband's cousin also passed away two days after his mom, so that's three in less than three weeks), and after coming home from the second funeral yesterday, I realized something.

I have mess monsters.

I'm not talking about my teenagers- though they've had a hand in it. I'm not talking about the cats either. I have little monsters in my house making messes when I sleep- it's the only explanation for the condition of my home.

Dust Monsters collect all the cat hair and scatter it about, making 'tumblefur' balls that roll about the room like a bad western. Then they coat everything in dust, just like in The Munsters. I checked the vacuum- it's not on reverse, but there's not much in it either. I think this is where they get their dust stash.

The Paper Breeders come next to clutter up any flat surface with printouts, old mail, and candy wrappers. I could leave two sheets of paper on the table before bed, and when I come down the next morning, those suckers bred like crazy and now look like giant confetti all over my entire living room- including the couch.

The Crumb Monsters stuff my cushions with everything imaginable. I don't even want to know what that stuff is, but when I vacuum it out, it sounds like fish tank gravel. On occasion I'll find odd things like the TV remote, small children and the neighbors lost pets. I guess the monsters ran out of gravel on those days.

The Clutterbug digs into everything I have neatly stored and drags things out I haven't seen in years. It must have squealed in delight when I brought home mementos from my mom's apartment. I think it conspired with the Paper Breeder, because I don't remember bringing this much stuff home.

Let's not even mention the Laundry Monster. I swear that one switches my socks with several neighbors' just to mess all of us up. Only after I toss the orphaned footwear in the trash a year later do the prodigal socks show up- then I have to toss them too. Ugh.

I wonder if the home improvement stores have monster repellent....I could use a gallon or two...

Or maybe some elbow grease?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tough Marshmallows.

This has been a rough month.

My mom passed away on July 18th- just five days after her 78th birthday.
My husband's mom passed away yesterday morning- exactly two weeks after my mom, give or take four hours.
With the drama of dealing with my mom's funeral and subsequent cleaning out of her apartment on top of it all, I was on the verge of losing it.

I went to a friend's house so my kids wouldn't see me lose my Schmidt.

My friend's name is Marlene. She's God's warrior. She's a Tough Marshmallow. 
This is a woman who will pray for you any time of the day or night, will hold your hands in hers so you don't pull your own hair out, and assure you that God is with you, always.
But don't mess with Marlene. Don't tell her you don't need help when your heart is hurting. She has an excellent BS detector and has no problem telling you your full of it.
Within five minutes she rallied the troops- she had me on the phone with a guy named Bob-someone I met at the writer's conference who's a fantastic speaker and brother of my heart, just to tell me I'm not entirely a deranged lunatic. 
Then Marlene summoned two great spiritual warriors to her house just to listen to me talk myself hoarse for three hours straight and cry myself dry. 
Another dear lady named Marjorie gave me a book to help revive my spirit- one she herself wrote- and had no problem swatting me when I asked her who the heck the author was.

These people rallied around me. Me. The one with the snarky Philly attitude when things go wrong. The one that wants to hide in her room when things go bad, and not help anyone when she's feeling angry. Don't these people know me? Don't they know that I never open up to anyone because when I do, people tend to pat me on the head, tell me they'll pray for me, then find better things to do?

Yet they listened. And stayed. They didn't hang up until I was ready. they didn't leave the room. They didn't make me feel like I was wasting their valuable time.

But they did drop what they were doing to help someone they only knew from a distance. These are really busy people. Their time really is super valuable. Yet they all took time out for me. 


This has never happened to me before. Never

I could see them doing this for my husband. You see, he's the go-to guy. The help-anyone-in-a-crisis man of the hour. I've seen people flocking to him whenever he was in need. He does a lot of stuff for a lot of people and is well loved by all. Seriously. He has touched more lives than anyone I know. He's awesome.

His wife is another matter. She's a snarky, wit-cracking wise-arse who couldn't quote a scripture if her life depended on it. She's just not a rally-to-her-banner kind of gal. 

I'm so grateful to those tough marshmallows that helped me stay sane yesterday. People willing to listen and give me a hug, but weren't afraid to keep things real and swat me upside the head on occasion. Tough people gently nudging me towards God's word, and doing more than just praying.

Don't get me wrong- prayer is powerful stuff! But sometimes you need more than prayer. That's what these people did for me. I pray that God heaps unexpected blessings all over them- so much so that the blessings are slopping over and soaking into the carpets!

Thank you Marlene, Bob, Rob and Stephanie, Marjorie, Ava, and Marti for the support, hugs, and swats. I love you all so very much!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Taming the Clutterbug

Hi. My name is Beth, and I'm a clutterbug.

Well I used to be. I got rid of everything unwanted and unused before we moved, and all was right with the world. I don't even have a junk drawer! Then I relapsed. But I have good reasons- I swear!

I've been caring for my mom more and more for the past year. Housework was sacrificed (happily) to make her meals and go for visits. More of my time was spent working out of my home and visiting hers. Now that she's gone, I realized just how important being an at-home mother and wife is.

My house is a mess. Not just any mess, but a volcanic, lava leaden hot mess. Mess that has the potential for TV greatness.

And after going through my mom's apartment, I have a pile of keepsakes and items I really have no room for- all piled in my living and dining room.

I want to keep it, but I can't. I don't have the room!

It's time to tame the clutterbug once more. 

Thanks be to God for past experiences, for I now have the tools to deal with this mess- however, time is still a problematic factor, since I'm in the middle of getting ready for a writer's conference. I'm both an attendee and faculty. That's me, always taking on new jobs!

Maybe I should join a club for Multitaskers Anonymous? I'd start one, but that would just add to my 'To Do' list. Ugh.

Not to mention I haven't worked in almost six weeks. Between the money and time factors, This stuff might be here a while. But that bug needs serious taming. Soon.

So here are a few decluttering ideas I'm working on:

I have three totes filled with photo albums. There isn't room for all of them, so I'll take digital pictures of the pictures and download them onto discs. One goes into each of the kids' folders, and I'll have at least two copies. The photos themselves will be put into acid-free envelopes for storage. I might keep one or two out on the shelves, but the rest won't be needed for display in an album. The empty albums will be donated or thrown, depending on their condition.

Framed photos will be displayed all over the house, since I have yet to put up any pictures since we moved! Photos I don't use will be distributed among other family members. Any photos not wanted will be deframed and stored. Empty frames will be given away or donated.

Other random items will have a spot, or will be donated. I don't store anything but pictures anymore. I took what I thought I could use, but some I might not have room for. Those things will be given to family or donated.

Do you see a trend here? Once I get the ball rolling, there will be no clutter in my house. If it doesn't have a spot, out it goes. Period.

The clutterbug hates this. I like ticking off the clutterbug- that means I'm doing the right thing!

The last time I began decluttering, it took me nearly five years and moving to a new house to get rid of it all. I'm hoping this go-around won't take more than a few months. Why that long? Time constraints; with two teens, three cats, and a husband, it usually takes three times as long to fix what took a few weeks to mess up! 

Once the prep for the conference is finished and the conference is over, then comes the tough stuff. I have to go back to work, get back to editing and writing, and become a homemaker/decluttering whiz.

Get back, you Clutterbug! Back! *Cracks whip*