Saturday, January 31, 2009


2 a: strongly inclined : ready b: lacking modesty or reserve : brash
4: moving, tending, or leading toward a position in front ; also : moving toward an opponent's goal

Perhaps more than most people, I have a tendency towards reflection. While this can be a good thing because it helps me assess my life and stay focused on my broader goals, it also can result in looking backwards in regret too often. I've been working on some fiction writing lately and have written a few pieces about a character. As I've envisioned who she is and where she's going, I see her life initially having paths of creativity and practicality that are intertwined. But I think there will come a point where she must choose between the two paths. The paths will join up together again years later and instead of choosing to turn back and try the path she missed the first time, she'll turn forward because we can't ever really go back.

I'm trying very hard right now to turn forward. I feel like I can see a curve coming in the road ahead, but I have no idea whether there will be one large, clear and attractive path awaiting me, or a plethora of paths that aren't clearly marked, with several promising lovely scenery along the way. Either way, the curve in the road will only come in time and it will come whether I spend the intervening time striding towards it or digging my heels in and look back.

In trying to stride forward, I am occasionally limping along. Thursday, I went to a new group focused on exploring your God-given creativity. It's a small group of nine women and I only know one other woman. She's a friend that I asked to join me because I thought it would be fun to do this with her and get to know her better through this. It helped to have her there beside me on Thursday, but even as I prepared to leave for the meeting, I was questioning whether I should do this... perhaps for good reason, as I had plenty of moments to elicit questions:

My babysitter called about two minutes after she was supposed to arrive to tell me she was running late. I had not left myself a lot of lead time and knew the drive would take me a while. Even if she had been just five minutes late, I would not have been on time. As it was, she was more than twenty minutes away. I ended up asking my next door neighbor to hang out with the girls until the sitter showed up. Luckily, he agreed and I left about twenty minutes after I had planned. Then, I hit traffic from an earlier wreck on the interstate, making the drive time even longer.

Throughout all of this, I tried to calm my heart. I had avoided thinking much about this group prior to Thursday night because thinking about it only made me nervous. These obstacles in my path caused all of my insecurities to flare up and I thought as I drove, "My first impression to these women will be terrible! I'm going to be late to the very first meeting!" To make matters worse, I didn't have a phone number for the hostess, so I couldn't call in advance to explain my tardiness.

The meeting itself went fine and I left feeling more intimidated about the task of examining my heart than by the women in the group. My first assignment is to create an invitation to myself for joining the group. An invitation from God. I think part of the invitation will be inviting me to move forward without letting fear hold me back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


4: the line or course on which something is moving or is aimed to move or along which something is pointing or facing

A friend of mine recently posted about anxiety. She talked about how her near future is fairly uncertain and out of her hands to control. While she will be happy with any of the potential outcomes, the unknown makes her anxious. I can relate because I wonder what direction I'm headed and what direction I need to be headed.

K starts kindergarten next year, which is very exciting, both because it's a major milestone and because it will free up a lot of my time and nearly all of my current salary, which pays for her childcare. Ever since I started working again, it has been more to satisfy myself than to contribute financially to our family. While I have been able to pay for summer camps and extracurricular activities for the girls with my salary, the money hasn't been the reason I've worked. Still, it's fun to think about the money we could save if I keep working and don't have to pay for child care anymore.

Yet I find myself daydreaming about quitting my job and staying home to write. This is appealing on so many levels. I would have the house all to myself for a long stretch of the day and would be able to spend a great deal of time alone, which is something I crave. But does it make sense to quit my job during a recession? Is there a realistic possibility that I could bring any income in by writing articles, short stories or (big dream here) a novel? Is it the best thing for Rejoice if I resign? I'm just not sure.

Rejoice continues to struggle financially and my salary is a drain on those finances. Yet I do feel God opened the door for me to work at Rejoice and while He has not yet blessed my grant writing efforts there, I know I have helped with some administrative issues and have helped lay a foundation to make the ministry eventually run smoother (if we raise enough money to continue to run the ministry!).

So, I'm contemplating the direction my life will take. I want to approach this with my head, but I also want to listen closely to my heart. This is a great opportunity for me to aim my life in a new direction and I want to be unafraid to use my God-given gifts while still being responsible. I pray I'll abound in knowledge (from my head) and insight (from my heart) as I approach this curve in the road.

Monday, January 26, 2009


2 a: a direct or personal written or printed message addressed to a person or organization

Letters have been on my mind lately. Here's why:

A) A friend of mine wrote a sweet letter to her newborn niece on her blog (so sweet, in fact, that I cried a bit).

B) A friend in my writing group shared that she writes letters to missionaries and is focusing on making her letters more than just catalogs of her daily life.

C) Our Sunday School class talked about ways to communicate and build relationships and written letters were very late to make it into the discussion.

D) We are studying Philippians this spring and unlike many of Paul's letters, I think this one sounds more like a letter and less like a sermon in writing.

I write a lot - grants, short articles, blog posts, fiction - but I rarely write a letter to anyone. Both A & D above make me think about writing letters to my daughters. With the exception of K, they are old enough to read anything I would want to say to them. But what would I say in a letter to A or B? Would I, like my friend, tell them the things I hope and pray for them and the things I am looking forward to? Would I, like Paul, tell them how thankful I am for them and then encourage them in Christ?

After some of these thoughts, I decided to write blog posts to each of my girls about their names. I've written two of the three and scheduled them to be published on their birthdays. (The next of which is in May, so you'll have to wait a bit to read them.) That's a good start, but there is something special about a handwritten letter, especially in today's digital society.

I think I need to make time amidst all of the other writing I am doing to write letters to those I love. I'll start with A, B, K and J, but maybe I'll be inspired to move on to others that I love. I think Paul's letter to the Philippians is a love letter. Not a love letter like we think of them, but the kind of love I want to express - one filled with joy, gratitude for the friendship, encouragement through the hard times and confidence in who the people I love will become.

If you wrote a love letter, who would it be to and what would it say? The words we think, say and write have value. I hope I can use that power to bless others through letters and the words that compose them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


3: the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand

B & K went to a friend's birthday party today. There was a magician there, who was great with the kids. He had the kids laughing, oohing and aahing in no time. The first child volunteer he used was K, who reveled in the attention of both the magician and the crowd. J & I had wondered how she would do at the party since it was the birthday of a friend of B's, but she was great. She had a wonderful time running around before the magic show started and was rapt with attention once the show began. When she was not so wonderful was when it was time to go home.

It's generally the little things that set K off. This time, it was the color of a ribbon. Yes, the color of a ribbon. There were two types of gift bags - one with purple ribbons for older children and one with orange ribbons for younger children. K cried, whined and generally threw a fit for approximately 20 minutes because her bag had orange ribbon. Now, some moms might have just averted the tantrum by letting her have one of the other bags the moment she expressed dislike for the orange. But I am frustrated by the way K lets little things like this ruin her entire day and I think trying to create an environment where she is never frustrated will be counter-productive in the long run. So, instead I put up with crying over a ribbon. A lot of crying over a little ribbon.

What I think would be magical would be to have an entire day where my daughters do not fight with each other, do not raise their voices in anger, enjoy each other's company and enjoy their day. Sadly, that would require magic - that an illusion be produced through sleight of hand or other means that I don't know.

I know my daughters love each other. I catch potent glimpses of it every now and then. Today, at the party, when K was chosen to be the magician's volunteer, B yelled, "That's my sister!" Her enthusiasm was genuine and that stems from the love she feels for her. When A danced in The Nutcracker, B told everyone sitting around us that her sister was going to be the black lamb and to watch for her. When A finished onstage, K said to me, "I need to tell A she did a great job!"

So while I'm not completely despairing that our children will fight like this forever, it is unpleasant. I'd love a magical day of peace, quiet and cooperation. It's not likely to come anytime soon, but one can dream...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


4: a favored companion

We had friends over for dinner last night. Actually, my daughters had friends over for dinner. Had you been here, you would not have seen them, but you might have heard them. One of K's many eccentricities is her fondness for imaginary companions. Ella and Jamina are old favorites, so they were here last night, along with Lily and Martha, who are, I believe, new friends.

What set last night apart was that A & B decided to interact with the cadre of imaginary friends. K brought a crew over to the table with her, instructing them the entire walk to the table about how they needed to be quiet and listen and obey her. While I am trying to get K to focus and eat her dinner, A suddenly says, "K! Tell Lily to stop poking me in the eye. She's distracting me." K was only too happy to do this and off she went, telling Lily to stop that right now.

B decides to get in on the fun, too, and asks K to please ask Martha to get out of her chair so that she can eat her dinner. Meanwhile, K's spaghetti pie sits in her bowl, getting colder by the second as her imaginary friends swarm out of control.

I decided to take things into my own hands at that point. Looking firmly at the group of imaginary girls to the right of K's chair, I said, "Girls, you must stop talking right now and let K finish her dinner. Do you understand?" The chorus of silent agreement was all that was needed.

We finished our dinner and K left the table to join her imaginary friends and real sisters in play.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


4 a: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects ; also : works so produced b (1): fine arts (2): one of the fine arts (3): a graphic art

A friend asked me the other night why I majored in art history since I am a self-proclaimed Word Girl. It gave me slight pause. I've never thought of the two things as being contra-indicators. I've loved books for as long as I can remember and I fell in love with art in the ninth grade when I went to Spain, saw El Greco's The Burial of Count Orgaz and toured The Prado. Since I hadn't given this question thought before, the answer I gave then was that my major actually taught me a lot about writing. It was an intensive liberal arts education and I spent a lot of time learning how to communicate my thoughts verbally and in writing. If anything, I think majoring in art history enhanced my love of words because it forced me to articulate what I saw, what I knew and, occasionally, what I felt about a work of art.

After giving this a bit more thought, I think the connection for me between words and art is even deeper than one enhancing my enjoyment of the other. I think both art and words are frameworks for me to understand life. When I visit a museum, the very act of standing before something created by someone makes me stop and think about what life is really about. Not every work of art moves me. To the surprise of many and consternation of some, I do not like representational art much at all. I much prefer abstract art because it lets me interpret and reinterpret it for myself. Even so, I can leave an exhibit of nearly any type of art with my head swimming with ideas.

Words are much the same. A well-written book is fodder for endless thoughts, soul-searching and deep conversations with friends. I have asked J how people who don't read books can get enough distance from their own lives to even understand their lives. A good book takes me far enough away from my daily life to examine it. Without books, how would I even be able to really live?

I think the power in both visual art and books comes from our Creator. We were made in his image and our appreciation and need for art is a reflection of the fact that we are both created and creative beings. I unaplogetically think that art is a vital part of our life, our culture and our very existence. I guess one of my deepest held hopes is that one day, I'll write something that makes someone stop and ponder their life and see it more clearly through the lens of something I have written.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


1 a: a phenomenon of light (as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects

It's a big day today. In a few minutes, we will have a new President. One who is not the same color I am - nor, likely, the same color you are. He's his very own color. Like all of us, he's a mixture of his mother and father. It just so happens that more people define him by his color than happens to me.

Did you notice above that the primary definition of color is that it is "a phenomenon... that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects?" Think about this for a moment. Color's purpose is to allow us to differentiate objects. Without color, objects look identical. We wouldn't be able to tell each other apart without color. Isn't that amazing? Color lets us see other people. How like us as sinful people to take a phenomenon designed to help us see and turn it into the only thing we see.

It makes me long, like Martin Luther King, Jr. so many years ago, for a day when people will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. I believe today was a day that gets us closer to that. Fewer and fewer people are seeing only skin color when they look at someone. I hope I will use color as God designed it - to see the beauty of this world, not search for the ugliness in it. I hope I will see people for what we have in common and not only what makes us different.

One of the things I have loved about Barack Obama's vision for this country, both before and after he was elected, is the call for us all to do our part. I know we can't just leave our country in the hands of our elected leaders and expect all to go as we desire. Watching his speech this morning, I feel many things: called to do more, scared to step out and use my gifts, unsure how the gifts that I have can change my small world, much less impact the larger one we live in.

I loved the cleanly written inaugural poem by Elizabeth Alexander. It voiced the belief I hold that words are powerful. They help to shape the world we live in and the way we experience our world. I loved her instruction in the poem to "speak it clear." I don't have the experience, the training, the skills of Elizabeth Alexander. But what I do hope is to speak clearly what I see with these eyes that behold all the many colors in our world.

Monday, January 19, 2009


1: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action

The definition of this word really nails it on the head. I joined Facebook about ten days ago and I think ambivalent accurately describes the way I feel about the experience. I am simultaneously attracted and repulsed by it. While it's been interesting to get a glimpse into the lives of former high school classmates or old colleagues, I am less thrilled about them getting a glimpse into my life. I mean, a lot of these people didn't really know me then, so how can they know me now? How are people who were once acquaintances now branded friends?

I have been interested to see who lives where, what their children look like and other vague facts, but it makes me wonder what my life might look like to them from the outside. And in the next mental breath, I question whether that really matters. Yesterday at Sunday School we were discussing authenticity and what it looks like in relationships. For our small group discussion, we talked about how it might change our earthly relationships if we were more secure in our relationship with Christ. I shared that I think the single biggest thing that could change my earthly relationships is if I were truly secure that God loves me and will not forsake me. Consciously or unconsciously, I seek the approval of others.

The problem with something like Facebook is it doesn't lead to acceptance, authenticity or true friendships. Instead, it entertains your inner voyeur and leads you to compare your life to that of others - rarely a healthy thing.

I'm feeling ambivalent about other aspect of my life as well - like my time management. I feel exceptionally short on time lately. I think because I want time to write, I feel like I have to be extra-productive to justify spending time putting words on paper. That has led to guilt about spending times on valuable activities like running or Bible Study, which are both inwardly productive, but not outwardly. Writing this makes it clear that in this, too, my problem is seeking the approval of others.

How to move past the ambivalence? I'm not entirely sure. I think part of it lies in just doing what I know in my head is right - and that means making time to write, run and study Philippians. It also means rejecting the voice in my head that reminds me that my kitchen floor is dirty, there's laundry that needs to be washed and toys that need to be put away. Like it or not, these things will always be there, whether I am taking care of my inner needs or not.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


1 a: feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace b: feeling inferior or unworthy
: restrained by anticipation of shame (was ashamed to beg)

I have come to the painful realization this weekend that I am raising daughters who do not respect me. It's not an easy thing to admit, but I am hoping that processing my thoughts and emotions in words will help me come to grips with how this has happened and what I can do about it. Both A & B have been consistently disrespectful with their words, actions and facial expressions. J has talked with each of them separately, but we have not seen this impact their behavior thus far.

After a rough weekend with them, today at church I was stopped in the hall to be told that B has been disruptive and disrespectful at church for the last few weeks and it had finally reached the point that they felt J and I should be made aware of it. B's favorite method of disobedience is to stand and argue with me when I ask her to do a simple task. She often starts by asking why I've told her to do something, which I actually do not have a problem with. But it often escalates to her counterpoint for why she shouldn't have to do it. While she rarely outright refuses to obey in words, she turns every request into an argument and does not comply with even the most reasonable of requests. J and I talked with her after church to try to determine what behavior led to us hearing she is being disrespectful and she was unable to come up with anything. What I find most upsetting is that she doesn't even seem aware of when she is being disrespectful.

I think A is aware of when she is being disrespectful, but just doesn't care. She acts like she is entitled to do everything her way and everyone in our family - not just J and I - are burdens she must bear. Her lack of respect emerges most clearly in her tone of voice. She is quick to express her disdain with words and her exceptional verbal skills give her ample ammunition for doing so.

I am ashamed that my children do not respect me. Growing up, I obeyed by father out of fear and I have tried very hard to make sure my children do not fear me. I still do not want them to fear me. It would break my heart. But I don't know how to earn their respect if what I am currently doing results in the behavior we're seeing right now.

While I feared my father, I was also ashamed of him. His behavior embarrassed me and I think I was ashamed that I wasn't good enough for him to love me. It occurred to me today that maybe the reason my daughters don't respect me is because they are ashamed of me. It truly breaks my heart to think this might be the case. I am far from a perfect mother. I am impatient. I sometimes yell. I am inconsistent in enforcing family rules, especially when I am tired or ill. But for all of my failings, I do love them each very much and I have tried to respect them for who they are and not force them into some preconceived notion of who I think my daughters should be. It shames me to think this has not impacted them enough to gain some respect. I thought the way to earn their respect was to respect them. I'm not sure what my new approach should be.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


1 a: having or being a temperature that is uncomfortably low for humans (it is cold outside today) (a cold drafty attic)

The day started off on a rough note. Temperatures were forecast to be considerably lower than normal here (highs in the 20s) , so I told A & B they had to wear long sleeved shirts to school today. This might be a bit surprising to some of you. The highs have recently been in the 30s, so one might assume that my children were already wearing long sleeves regularly. That would be a logical assumption that in this case is woefully wrong. Every day, A & B pull short sleeved polo shirts from the closet and wear them to school. They have long sleeved shirts. They simply refuse to wear them.

But today I decided I had to force the issue. B did not take it well. Tears ensued. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. All over wearing a long sleeved shirt to school. Now, B knows that cold is a relative term. One of the things she was bewailing this morning was that it is cold enough here to feel like Wisconsin (J's home state). At one point in her tearful tirade, she moaned, "I want to live in Alabama. It's never cold in Alabama." (My home state.)

The worst part of listening to all of this drama before I'd even had one cup of coffee was that I agreed with her. I was thinking yesterday (before I knew the temperature was dropping even further) that it was just too cold. I decided that I don't like to wear sweaters. They're a bit bulky and just not my style. In my humble opinion, ideal winter clothing involves layering a long sleeved shirt and a short sleeved shirt, pairing with a skirt and a cute pair of boots and topping it all with a jacket, a scarf and some soft gloves. It's been too cold for me to comfortably dress like this. I've persisted. I've worn thin (but cute, mind you) blouses over another layer and pretty much shivered all day long. I've chosen long skirts with boots and skipped the tights... and paid the price by being cold all day long.

So I understood where B was coming from. Of all of my girls, she is the closest to me in terms of her fashion sense. Not surprisingly, I find this endearing. It took me thirty or so years to figure out my style, so I'm impressed that she's willing to take some fashion risks at the age of 7 and willing to take a stand when suggested clothing doesn't meet her standards. Impressed, but nonetheless frustrated. When it's in the teens outside, even I have to forgo my fashion sense. Today finds me wearing two pairs of socks, tennis shoes, jeans and... a sweater. A bulky, unattractive sweater that is keeping me warm.

In conclusion, the entire Truss family will be glad when warm weather returns. There will be less friction, fewer dramatic scenes and cuter outfits all around!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


5 a: the distinguishing name of a written, printed, or filmed production b: a similar distinguishing name of a musical composition or a work of art
: a descriptive name : appellation

When I went to the Frist last week, there was a photograph of one of Abraham Lincoln's assassination conspirators. The title of the work was what made me stop to look twice at the image. Before knowing the title, I liked the work. It had a grittiness and edge to it that was not common in the posed portraiture that dominates photographs from this period and that made it stand out from the work around it. While I wouldn't say that I liked the work any less after reading the title, but I did feel differently about it. The title changed my experience of the image. Before knowing the title, I read the insolence in the young man's stance one way. After knowing the title, the same body language had different connotations to me. In this case, the title was "a descriptive name" but sometimes the title has an even more profound impact when it's not descriptive.

One of the striking things to me about studying the book of Ruth this fall was the title. If you read the book of Ruth through several times without knowing the title of the story, I wonder what you might name it. I don't think I would have named it after Ruth. She's certainly a key player in the story, but she doesn't call attention to herself and therefore tends to fade into the background. I think this is noteworthy because the authors (both the human author and the Author) of the story want you to pay special attention to Ruth.

I think the title of something - whether it's a book, an album or a work of art - frames your experience as the reader/listener/viewer. This makes me wonder whether those who select the titles do so with great deliberation or on a whim. I think a close analogy to this is naming your children. In a way, the name you give your child frames her experience of life. Not because the name necessarily describes your child but because it is so much a part of her existence that she can't escape it.

I looked up the meanings for the names of each of my daughters before naming them, but only with the last child (K) was the meaning of the name the reason we chose the name we did and spelled it the way we did. B doesn't really like the meaning of her name, so we've altered the meaning to fit her better, since she doesn't go by her full name anyway. I think it makes her feel better to think of a meaning for her name that suits her better.

I used to not like my name. I think this was due in part to the fact that I did not have a middle name. There's no way to turn my name into a cute diminutive, so I was stuck with the name my parents gave me. It means "small, wise one" and I like that now. I'm not sure I am fully living up to the name, but it's a good goal to work towards. It frames my experience of life nicely, like a well-titled work of art.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


1: to move forward, progress, or act with haste or eagerness or without preparation

My day progressed in fits and spurts. For the third day in a row, I had a terrible headache, so the first half of my day was slow. I couldn't seem to rid my head of pain for long enough to think clearly. After napping for an hour after lunch, my headache receded to a low throb before I went to pick the girls up. That's when the rush hours (yes, that's plural) really started. Take a deep breath before reading....

I picked K up from day care before getting A & B because B & K were playing at a friend's house after school. After dropping them off, A and I dashed into a store to get shoes for B to wear when she starts basketball tomorrow. Then I had to get A straight to ballet because we were running late by this point. We stopped to pick up one of her friends for ballet and called to let the teacher know we would be a bit late. As soon as I dropped A off, I headed to the grocery store (without any of my 3 children!) before picking B & K up and going straight to get A. It's not over yet...keep reading... We dropped a ballet friend home and ate a quick dinner of cereal (gasp! cereal for dinner?) while A changed into clothes appropriate for seeing The Wizard of Oz at TPAC on her date night with J. We threw our coats back on and headed over to meet J at TPAC. As soon as we got back home, I put B & K straight to bed. Not surprisingly, I haven't heard from them since. Are you tired just reading this? Needless to say, by the end of this 4 hour sprint, my headache had returned with a vengeance.

I remember when my children were toddlers and the hours from 3-6 were the worst. The naps were over, the husband wasn't home and dinner needed to be cooked. My friends and I called it "the witching hour." We're pretty much past that stage with our girls. No one really naps anymore (unless you count me) and the girls can't misbehave during this time of day because we simply aren't home. Every day is not as crazy as this one, but the busiest part of my day is consistently between 2:30 and 6:30. Maybe I need to just budget in nap time every day in order to make it through the Rush Hours.

Monday, January 12, 2009


3: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness

At the Frist last week, the photography exhibit had photos of Abraham Lincoln and, in a separate gallery, Martin Luther King, Jr. I stopped to look closely at each of these images. I peered closely at these men and pondered what set them apart, what made them capable of being not just men, but great men. I walked away a bit disappointed because greatness isn't something visible in a photograph. We can't see, in looking at an image of either of these men, what made them brave enough to listen to the inner voice telling them to take the path less traveled.

I wonder if Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. had doubts. I wondered if they felt unworthy of their high calling. I wonder if they even saw it as a high calling. These are men who shaped the country we live in by standing up for what is right, not just for themselves, but for others. I think they are undoubtedly great, not only for the unique skills and abilities they possessed, but for their self-sacrifice.

Imagine being King's daughter and giving up time with your daddy because he needed to hop on a plane to Dallas for a march. Imagine being Mary Todd Lincoln and knowing your husband was putting the safety of thousands before his own safety. While I might be willing to sacrifice my own life for something, it would be harder to watch a loved one make that sacrifice.

It makes me realize how far I fall short of who I want to me. I am so selfish at the core of my being. I want to be willing to sacrifice for others, but where am I doing that in my daily life? Instead, I bemoan the fact that my day is too full for me to take time for me, especially time to write. While I spent a good chunk of my weekend creating a haven, I've not had much opportunity to spend time there. Is it selfish of me to long for this? Or is it impossible for me to achieve any degree of greatness if I never use the gifts I have, gifts that require quiet solitude?

I'm not really aiming for greatness. I just want the ache to write to subside a little - maybe enough to let me breathe if I must go twenty-four hours without time to sit quietly. I'm not sure how a post on greatness turned into a post about me. I guess that puts my selfishness front and center, doesn't it?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


3 : a place offering favorable opportunities or conditions (a haven for artists)

I'm not much of a "do-er." I'm not terribly motivated by my to-do list, nor do I get enormous satisfaction from completely a project. I do the things that need to be done, but I live for the less tangible things - a quiet moment with a cup of hot tea, finishing a good book or finding just the right word when I'm writing something. But today I've been "doing" non-stop for about six hours.

Nearly a week ago, I started reading Escaping Into The Open: The Art of Writing True. The first exercise in the book is to fantasize, as explicitly as possible, about what your life would be like as a writer. I had no trouble envisioning myself in a quiet spot upstairs, with my desk overlooking the window and inspiring books on art and women nearby. That spot didn't exist when I fantasized about it, but it does exist now. I spent the last six hours pushing furniture around, lugging items to and from our basement and re-arranging our house to make my vision a reality.

J left mid-morning with B to go run errands and while he was gone I was struck with an almost irresistible urge to start moving furniture around to see if I could create some sort of space like the one I had fantasized about. I put A to work briefly and K came up to see what I was doing. I had planned to try to get it all done before J returned, which I can now say was woefully optimistic. Even with his help, it took me another four hours after he returned home!

When I told J what I was up to, he said, "It's like your pregnant with possibilities and are nesting." It was funny that he described it that way because it's exactly how I felt. I was compelled to not just start this project today, but finish it. Maybe having taken this step will encourage me forward as I try other, more terrifying, steps towards giving birth to a book.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


:a picture or likeness obtained by the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface

I took a bit of time alone today to go to the Frist Center and see a photography exhibit. While I appreciate photography as an art form, I'm not a big fan of the photograph in my everyday life. I have found time and again that seeing photos of an event after the fact ruins my memory of what I experienced. While at the Frist, I started pondering what a photograph tells us about the photographer. We assume we are learning something about the person framed by the lens, not the person framing it, yet the subject has a less active role than the photographer. Is this why I don't like photographs? Because I am rarely the photographer?

I'm rarely behind the camera because leaving the moment and stepping out of it in order to capture the moment is counterintuitive and not how I want to live. So instead of seeing the moment the way I lived and experienced it, with photos, I have to live someone else's experience. This would be fine - or perhaps less damaging to my memories - were the visual record not so powerful as to recast my own memory. It is hard to hold my own lived experience in the frame of my mind when someone else's catalogued image is seen in a photo. When that happens, their experience, in effect, erases my own.

When talking about photographs a few months ago with J, he suggested that since photos ruin my memory of an event, my approach should be to allow others to photograph me when requested, but that I not look at the resultant image(s) so as to not change my experience.

The two photos that have cemented an experience rather than erased it were taken by me. Seeing these two images always takes me back to the moment. I can hear what was being said and remember the sweetness of the original experience. Maybe I like these photos because they were my memories to begin with, not someone else's.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


the act of giving hope or promise

I received an e-mail from a friend a few days ago that was meant to - and did - encourage me. This friend had been getting caught up on my blog posts and saw the self-doubt lurking in the words and between the lines. What I liked about her encouragement was that she acknowledged this self-doubt and then gave me a very concrete suggestion to talk to myself like I talk to my daughters. I would never tell them the things I tell myself about being unworthy, unable and undeserving to act on a creative urge.

When I shared with a group of close friends that I had received this encouragement from an unusual source, a friend commented that it was interested for the encouragement to come from someone who is not as close to me as this group of friends or my husband. I immediately replied (without filtering the thought at all) that I wouldn't have accepted the encouragement from any of them. This seemed surprising and perhaps a bit insulting to my friends, but my theory is that they would tell me what they thought I needed to hear because they love me, not because they see potential in my art.

After my minor melt-down for 24 hours on Monday, J did try to encourage me. He does believe in me. But I wonder if he would like my writing if he didn't love me. Is it the writing that he believes in or does he just want me to listen to the voice telling me to write so that I'll be happy? Should that distinction even matter to me?

There are times when I'm too introspective for my own good. I think this might be one of those times...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


1: having the quality or power of producing especially in abundance

I'm not feeling terribly productive today. This is not a good thing, since I've been off of work for a few weeks and there's plenty to do both in planning for the 2009 year and the actual doing for the 2009 year. I wish thoughts were more highly valued than productivity. I'm in the mood on this rainy day to finish reading my book, write in my journal, blog a bit and drink a few cups of hot tea. None of those activities have the quality or power of producing anything. I think part of my desire for introspection rather than action stems from the fact that our holidays were jam-packed with family, travel and fun and low on quiet moments of rest and reflection.

I'm not sure when I'll fit in rest and reflection with grants awaiting completion, preparation for next week's board meeting and prioritizing the other work that needs doing.

This morning, I wrote some before I came to work in the hopes that scratching that itch before coming to the office would free my mind to focus on Rejoice. That's not working terribly well at the moment. But I'll continue plugging away because while my meager salary doesn't provide for my family's basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, it does pay for Kate's child care. Besides, if I don't do this work, I'm not sure who will.

Here's to productivity over introspection!

Sunday, January 4, 2009


5: the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need; also : a mental image or a series of mental images (as a daydream) so created

I'm reading a book right now by Elizabeth Berg about "the art of writing true." Each chapter contains practical advice on how to be a writer and how to practice the art of writing. Each chapter also contains homework, which honestly scared me a bit at first! The opening chapter is Berg telling her story and the initial homework assignment is to imagine your life as a writer - where you want to write, what you want to write, why you want to write, etc.

I actually found the exercise of fantasizing about what it would be like to be a writer remarkably easy. I can picture just where I'd like to sit to write, what I would want my days to look like and how I would manage both writing and my responsibilities to my family. But probably the easiest part of the homework assignment was why I want to write. I want to write because I want to make people think. The best thing about any good book is that it makes me think. I really believe that "The unexamined life is not worth living" and books are the mirror I hold up to my life, my heart and my soul to see if I am living as I want to, as I should and as I could.

It's interesting that the definition above relates fantasy to a phsychological need because I definitely feel a need to write. Not because I have any great wisdom to share but because it helps me process my own life and because it releases the words that I feel pressing down on my chest. After getting the words out of me and in to sentences, I experience relief at setting the words free. Now if I can just move from fantasizing to actually living life as a writer, that will be progress, indeed.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


3: capable of being put to use or account: useful

At lunch yesterday, I mentioned that I almost minored in Math, due to pressure to at least have a "practical" minor if I was going to major in Art History. A few nights ago, I heard that a family member had decided to give up trying to make a living dancing and was researching other careers. A few weeks ago, a friend said in a disparaging tone that her brother-in-law was only interested in making "art for art's sake." These brief exchanges made me start thinking about the value of practicality.

Practicality is not a trait I am emphasizing in raising my daughters. Independence, creativity, respect, kindness, encouraging others and being who God made them to be - Yes. Practicality - No. At the most basic level this is because I'm not sure practicality and creativity can coexist. You can't really paint, draw, write or sculpt from your core creativity if you are focused on what might sell, what others might want and what is useful.

Right now, A would tell you she wants to be a professional ballet dancer when she grows up. I had a family member say to me, "Well, a lot of eight year old girls want to be dancers. She'll grow out of it." Thankfully, A did not hear any of this exchange. I don't want any of my daughters to "grow out of" their desire to be something unique, even if it means a challenging career path. There is plenty of time for them to decide to be practical. If they love something enough, then working hard or struggling to make ends meet will be worth it. I would much rather see them pursue their dreams and ultimately give up their dream for practical reasons than never attempt to live their dream because it's not practical.

I think practicality is a much more secular than Biblical concept. I can't think of many instances in the Bible where people were discouraged from doing something extraordinary because it wasn't practical. Instead, we see ordinary people do extraordinary things with the gifts God has given them. Who knows how my daughters will use their gifts? They may choose stable, predictable careers that provide reliably, or even abundantly, for themselves and their families. Or they may move from one project to another to use their gifts in varied ways that aren't necessarily fiscally valued by our world. Either way, I hope they walk the path God has for them and don't let practicality drive their decision.

I'll close by admitting that as I wrote this post, it occurred to me that I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I feel such pressure to write a book, yet I lack the courage to try - or even start. I rationalize this fear by reminding myself that there are more practical uses for my time than writing. If I truly want my children to follow where they are led, then I need to do a better job of being an example.

Friday, January 2, 2009


1: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

I've started to experience a new emotion when I read a good book. I have loved reading for as long as I can remember, but only recently have I begun to truly envy the authors of the books I read. Up until a few months ago, I would have said I'd never want to write a book. I would have told you that while I love reading, I just didn't have the desire to write a book of my own. That has now changed dramatically and I positively long to write a book.

There are books that I read by certain authors (Home by Marilynne Robinson, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks or Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell) that I can't even bring myself to envy. Each of these women doesn't just write - it's something bigger and more beautiful than that. But there are others that I read (Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Nefertiti by Michelle Moran or Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale) that make me think, "Well, I could write that!" And I envy the author for having the seed of an idea needed to start a book, the bravery to start writing and the persistence to keep writing.

I do, as the definition of envy says, "desire to possess the same advantage." I want to have an idea that compels me to pursue it, the time to write for pleasure and the courage to just do it. Because coupled with my envy is a fear. A fear that while I can read any book I want, I am not capable of writing one. That while I can admire and be touched by the creativity of others, I do not have the ability to bless others with my own blend of talents and gifts. Together, the envy and fear leave me crippled. So I limp along reading good or great books and push this desire to write one - or just start writing one - deep down.

Maybe 2009 will bring new emotions as I read - contentment in a good book, thankfulness for the joy it brings or appreciation for the writing, the story and the characters. If the envy remains, I pray God will give me the seed of idea I need to start and the courage to water that seed with words.